Frames /sing


District (9)

This isn’t a film review, mostly because I find film reviews tiresome (both to read and to write), and it certainly isn’t a critical analysis. The entire critical aim seems misplaced in film, or at least is confined to its own pleasures, like collage-making is only loosely connected to magazines. But perhaps it is a film reaction. And if you haven’t seen the film, skip what follows below because surely there are to be important plot points involved.

District 9 seems a satire of the highest order, which explains perhaps many of the difficulties film reviewers have in grasping the film. When I say of the highest order, I mean that it exploits the form of its presentation as the very mode of ambiguity which is to serve as the abuse  of the film. Caught within humor, genre identification (and alternation), and outright CGI impress, the viewer becomes morally and interpretatively transfixed in a way not easily remembered in film. Kubrick has abused us this way, and sometimes in Verhoeven and Gilliam – before that we have to enter in kitsch. Part The Office, part Robcop, part Videodrome, District 9  bores into us with repeated templates of consciousness, until lastly we are stripped nude…or our nudity is exposed as a trope. What is recalled is the Holocaust, not as figure, but as allegory, and AS allegory its very form resonates with a kind of crude, trans-historical specificity. Again and again through the film you feel as if you “get it”, you get what the director/writer/actor is trying to, even didactically, say. But then the text, the very text of its enunciation is ripped out from under you in the oddest fashion, through boredom and repetition, or through Cronenberg-like flattenings out into flesh, and Spielberg/Cameron oscillations between humanized spectacle and explosive chase. Indeed as much as we want to will that this film is about aliens, or really political aliens, one would have to commend that it is about technology, our flesh, and the eros between.

There is so much to be said about this film, but one should note that the very “inhuman” human character Wikus only becomes human after, first he has been infected by the distilled blood within alien technology, and then, finally, when he “puts on” ἐνεδύσασθε the Aliens (Ripley) cybernetic suit. This, coupled with the very armature of the the satirical structure perhaps shows the way towards an ethical human future that involves a technological irony. What is beautiful about this film is that it takes the no-doubt genetic narrative flaws inherented from its film-short origins, a core of cartoonish characters, and allegorizes both our history and our future, weaving the very schema of our racisms and ethnocentric reactionary impulses into the flesh of technology and love.

6 responses to “District (9)

  1. Paul August 19, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    and it was produced by a kiwi

  2. Paul Bains September 21, 2009 at 7:09 am

    I saw the film yesterday. Walked out of the cinema on a grey, wet, grim, sunday afternoon in a small town in the northland of nz (whangarei).
    I felt like I was in D.9. Actually quite nervous as I unlocked my car to change my coat for rain gear – seemed like I was being watched. the power of cinema.

    But, what I want to know is who is supposed to be shooting those last scenes – of the mutant crawling along on the ground watching the spaceship leaving? Or, come to think of it, who is shooting the film?

    ‘This is the last footage we have of x…who knows what happened to him.’
    That is until the sequel!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. kvond September 21, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Yes. I particularly enjoy when cinema transforms the space and experience just outside the cinema. I remember that when I first saw the Matrix (crossing a street was an adventure in physics), and then when I saw Goodfellows (I felt someone was going to walk up behind me and shoot me in the head). I didn’t exactly have that feeling after district 9, but it did affect me pretty acutely.

    As to the sequel, I am one of those that while a sequel is possible, I felt that the satrical form of the film actually was referencing the “wait until the sequel” narrative trope as a point of the film. So seem to have this too.

  4. Paul September 21, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    yes, I was joking about the sequel. It did cross my mind that there will be some who say ‘the nigerians’ are a racist stereotype. Any the acting is brilliant.

  5. kvond September 21, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    The Nigerians were an incredibly racist stereotype, I think one of the main factors that made me appreciate just how satirical the film was. To decry de-humanization, so to speak, and to have such a racist depiction of Nigerians really speaks to the aesthetic tension of the film.

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