I don’t really want to review this film.
Not because this film isn’t another engrossing Michael Moore documentary, because it is.
But because, after viewing it, I have to face up to the fact that my worst fears are more than likely an underestimation of the current bleak state of play in American and world politics.
The conclusion that this film draws is that, for the foreseeable future, at least, we are all right royally (or should that be ‘presidentially?) screwed.
Moore’s film is wide ranging in its selection of examples from American life that have been utilised to expose the depth of the problem. Moore is also upfront in declaring his intention to emotionally manipulate his audience in order to encourage our action over our complacency. It is, Moore clearly asserts, obviously a matter of some urgency that we act to bring about change. There is no time left for subtlety.
Donald Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner, in a clip used in the film, states: ‘[You] might not always agree with his politics, but Moore’s a good film-maker. He really knows how to build and convey a compelling argument.’ The quality of Moore’s earlier films undoubtedly suggest that Kushner’s assessment is hard to refute.
But Moore’s skill in constructing an argument, however, is stretched to its limit in his latest film. He tries to simultaneously cover so many of the spot fires burning in America, that he struggles to successfully draw everything together with any sense of satisfactory cohesion by film’s end. This does, perhaps, from one perspective serve to suggest that it is getting harder and harder to keep any sense of clear perspective on these events as they continue to escalate and multiply.
And this, however, may be Moore’s point – that he is showing us all, and his fellow Americans specifically, that the time for action is now. Nothing can neatly be kept under control any longer, as the way of life we have all blindly defended for generations is exponentially fragmenting and decaying at a faster and faster rate while we procrastinate.
No-one else can be called upon to come to our rescue. We must all do something to bring about a sudden and necessary change ourselves – and, as Moore continually strives to show us, we must do it now.
More than anything this film seems to be a thinly veiled call to revolution.
Yet, the distributors have, in their promotional blurb, misleadingly called this film a ‘comedic look at the times in which we live’!
There is nothing at all in this film, at any point, that could be described as ‘comedic’, although at one or two moments the surrealistic absurdity of our current reality hits home hard and we are forced to make the choice between laughing at, or crying in, our despair.
Moore does, at times, fall back on some old tried and true ‘comic’ tricks here, such as trying to unsuccessfully affect a house arrest of the Governor Of Michigan, Rick Snyder, for poisoning the entire population of the city of Flint, but the familiarity of his approach does not diminish the seriousness of the point he makes about this tragedy in any way.
Moore, in his films, often plays to what we already know – primarily, things are, despite what we are being told, really bad – but here he deftly builds an even more depressingly clear picture of the extent of corruption in our political world. And most tellingly, he powerfully strips away all those too easily accepted lies that continue to constantly reinforce America’s depiction as being a ‘democracy’ and the ‘land of the free’.
We may have already been aware of a lot of the broad strokes of his central argument, but it is the detail here, in the graphic depiction of the human cost of these biased policies of greed that legislate actions so far removed from any right-minded person’s moral outlook would tolerate, that will shock viewers the most.
No former President, or Presidential candidate, is spared Moore’s flaying. Not even Barack Obama who has been held up as the current President’s polar moral opposite so often in recent times.
Drawing together decisions made by former Presidents from both major parties during their terms in power, Moore has made it easy for us to see how such an aberration as Donald Trump be elevated to the Oval Office.
We are shown the cumulative effect of the equivocations and betrayals perpetrated by former leaders and how these became the catalyst for disillusioned would-be voters to turn away from the ballot boxes, subsequently creating a vicious cycle of worsening outcomes for the non-privileged.
Those righteously angry non-voters, shown to be representatives of a process that keeps happening across the States time and again, who, in their intended protest through withdrawing their vote, have inadvertently invited a line of ever more narcissistic, otherwise indifferent, power addicts into the White House through the vacuum their absent votes has created for them to crawl through.
Moore does try to inculcate some degree of hope in the face of this scenario by showing us many idealistic young people who are concerned enough to act in opposition to the dominant power clique, pointedly skewing his chosen cross-section of ideologues to show that it is largely women who are now mobilising against the patriarchal ruling elite. This hope is only depicted as being faint, however, as he also seems to assert that the system, structurally, is virtually infallible and that these brave moral insurgents are doomed to be ineffectual in their efforts to bring about any realistic level of change from within it.
Fahrenheit 11/9 is an unsettling viewing experience. Hopefully it won’t simply send all right-minded people into a deep black depression, but will instead encourage its audience to channel their anger into joining in with a collective call for change, or take grass roots action to steer our world back from the brink of entering an even darker period of political insanity.
Fahrenheit 11/9 opens in cinemas around Australia on November 1 2018.