« Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land, 2004 | Main | Me and My White Pal, 2003 »

April 13, 2005

Aldous Huxley: The Gravity of Light, 1996


On a television interview conducted near the twilight of his life, Aldous Huxley articulated his belief that the fullness of human potentiality can be achieved within one's lifetime - that the realization of an ideal eternal cognition can be accelerated through a cultivation of reason and virtue - in effect, that transcendence is within human grasp. From this seductive and intriguing introductory framework, Oliver Hockenhull relates a seemingly tangential personal anecdote on the synchronicity on having been born on the same day that the Russians launched Sputnik 2 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with a dog named Laika onboard in order to prove that animals could, indeed, survive in the vacuum of space. Nevertheless, these two disparate trains of thought inevitably cohere and interweave within the film's idiosyncratic, yet fascinating convergence of personal history, cultural biography, and philosophical exposition into the complex, often delusive role of technology and applied science towards humanity's quest to transcend the bounds of human limitation and approach ever closer the limits of infinity - a mortal transfiguration to an existential ideal.

For Huxley, this state of technologically induced transcendence came, not only in the form of creative abstraction in the submissive, dystopian bliss in the absence of free will depicted in his novel Brave New World, but also personally, in the author's controversial, late career interest in parapsychology and psychotropic drug experimentation - revealing his underlying interest in exploring the process and continuity of human consciousness in the absence of the body. It is this disengagement and autonomy of incorporeal information from the physical that is similarly reflect in a soliloquy performed by Hockenhull's alterego, an actor named David Odhiambo who bears little physical resemblance to the filmmaker (an incongruence that is further underscored by the use of a female narrator's voice in the sequence), on the evolution of the digital age which represents the existence and transfer of informational data without the medium of human consciousness, essentially creating a simulation of the human cognitive process - an artificial being - that, as the alterego comments, has "distinct memory but no resemblances".

This idea of the commutation of human legacy without physical transference is also reflected in the filmmaker's tantalizing, tongue-in-cheek anecdote on his family's potential genealogical commonality with the Huxley family through their intersecting geographic lineage of prominent landowners in feudal England. However, as the filmmaker subsequently discovers, the aristocratic surnames were appropriated by many of the serfs themselves in their quest to improve their prestige and social standing as they seek out their fortune. A subsequent anecdote recounting his brother's telephone call to a woman who also bears the same surname reveals another incidence of transference of identity as she explains that her husband's forefathers had apparently taken on their former landowner's last name after their emancipation from slavery. In both cases, the transcendence of the ancestral family name - a phenomenon that is intrinsically associated with the human processes of procreation and conscious desire - occurs without the exchange and recombination of genetic imprint. As in the alterego's exposition on the development of artificial intelligence, the continuity of human history occurs in the absence of a biological element, without the physical body...devoid of "resemblances".

Tracing Huxley's philosophy that applied science and spirituality are integrally correlated in humanity's process of self-enlightenment, Hockenhull includes an excerpt from the television interview in which the author provides a thoughtful account of his crisis of conscience during the 1930s from which he emerged with a new-found clarity for the possibility of immanent transcendence. However, within this context of changing the course of one's destiny through conscious and active self-engagement, the notion of potentiality begins to intersect (or more appropriately, collide) with the practical dichotomy of an allegorical Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: a realization that the simple act of observing alters the other characteristics of that which is observed - in essence, that myopic engagement in temporal reality detracts humanity from the cultivation of unrealized potential - and consequently, estranges it further from the ideal of transcendence. It is this existential paradox that perhaps best illustrates the genius, enigma, and irony of the unconventional, yet deeply philosophical author and modern thinker: the ability to see beyond the limits of physical vision towards the unimaginable promise and resolute faith of achieving true human transcendence.

Posted by acquarello on Apr 13, 2005 | | Filed under 2005, Ancillary Film Notes


My email is julianwp@hotmail.com, I have become fascinated by the masterpiece productions of Hockenhull and would be very very greatful for any and all kinds of information on his work. I am constructing a project on the Common Charicteristics of Oliver Hockenhull's films and any kind of input anyone has would be greatley apprechiated.
My thanks

Posted by: julian on Jun 14, 2005 12:02 AM | Permalink

Several of Hockenhull's films are available from Customflix: Like Children, Only Taller, EVO, Building Heaven, Remembering Earth, Aldous Huxley: The Gravity of Light.

Posted by: acquarello on Jun 16, 2005 2:05 PM | Permalink

As one reviewer commented 'pretentious pap' I have to agree. Viusally this film is amateurish; cement trucks, plate glass tables, melting icecreams? Plenty of ego stroking also via genealogical connections with the Huxley name, the reading of Brave New World at the age of nine and how terribly interesting and subversive his parents must have been by almost naming him Sputnik 1. There is no doubting Huxley's genius but I would rather view the interviews with the man than have snippets comtaminated with Hockenhulls half baked aesthetic - a "bread and ciruses" approach.
Ollie, here's a tip, TAKE MORE ACID.
Maybe then you wont waste your time making bad, peusdo-intellectual, arty documentaries.
I'm not suprised your girlfriend got bored.

Posted by: digi on Sep 05, 2005 12:35 PM | Permalink

Post a comment:

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)