If only I could stop time.

Ania Gleich discusses the recent 2019 French film, The Shock of the Future, which is dedicated to the female artists behind electronic music.

1978 – in a time where Jean-Michel Jarret just dropped his highly influential 1976 album “Oxygene” and Kraftwerk were about to reconfigure the skies of synth-pop and electronic avantgarde, we find Ana (Alma Jodorowsky) in her Parisian apartment, who is a likewise dedicated producer of electronic music. Starting her day with Cerrane’s track “Supernature”, one gets immediately drawn into the vibes and waves of this intensely aspiring period of electronic music culture. The only big difference Marc Collin’s film The Shock of the Future (Orginial: Le Choc Du Future) makes is that it shifts the perspective on the often missed out on female part of this history.

The Shock of the Future is a tribute to all the female pioneers that were mutually responsible in shaping the sound for this evolving new time of electronic music, just as their male colleagues were. Marc Collin’s film explicitly steps in favour of women like Daphne Oram, Lauri Spiegel, Delia Derbyshire or Suzanne Ciani, who were all equally committed to the sounds of synthesizers and drum machines.

Embracing these new experiments in Electronics, the audience can follow the main character, Ana, through her journey of finding the “sound of the future”. Although the screening is very limited on Ana’s apartment, the viewer can still enjoy a broad tour through the ups and downs of producing a record. Coping with a shabby and patronizing producer, Ana finally decides to break from his conditions to make “her own thing”. Together with a fellow-singer (Clara Luciani) Ana composes the featuring track Future Shock, using all the machines that make up her living place. The sheer complexity of this technology will make every retro-tech-fan jump from joy. This aspect especially sticks out in the slightly bizarre scene, when Ana receives the newest Beatbox on the market, it finally gives her the missing piece to her music.

When comparing the movie with other films about electronic music/dance culture, The Shock of the Future nevertheless remains in the status of an atmospheric still that captures a feeling, but lacks getting into the depths of wider issues. Mia Hansen-Løve’s 2014 movie Eden, which equally makes a similar tribute to the French electronic music scene of the 90s, evokes the feeling of ambivalence in this kind of music much more graspable. Especially the fluctuation between something very dark and the uplifting “party” aspect is maybe triggered in The Shock of the Future, but not intensified. The same goes for the good old “drug” trope, that is just in some scenes superficially touched upon in means of “It can’t completely work without it”. A film especially featuring this issue in a very humoristic but serious way is Hannes Stöhr’s 2008 film Berlin Calling that simultaneously brings up the aspect of “darkness” in electronic music to light. Finally, the “party” aspect gets emphasized in one of the last scenes, where Ana has a small “track release” party at her flat, but again: not in depth. Anyone really wanting to get “contact-high” and in trance along the characters should therefor at some point watch Justin Karrigan’s 1999 film Human Traffic.

Of course, these are no “necessary” topics one has to include in every movie of this genre, but still there is something to one’s expectations and associations connected to these often-self-referential feelings, that unintentionally get evoked by those “vibes”. It still must be said that what is intriguing about the film is exactly the curiosity that Ana radiates around her character. And even if nothing about this movie is compelling enough to get one into the mood of 70’s underground Electronics, one can still get hooked by the amazing soundtrack.