Cinematic time, the ecology of screens and the objective memory of technics in Pixar’s WALL-E (2008).
“Cinema is of the order of the dream. The waking state is a sort of tele-vision. It is certainly always possible to think while awake; this would be tele-cinema.”
Bernard Stiegler Technics and Time, 3: 28.
The last fifty years have seen shifting computational cultures. In 1964, students at UCLA Berkeley were united in opposition to an inhuman, mechanised university system. Thirty years later the same community rallied in support of independent cyberspace that utilised the same aspects of computing the Free Speech Movement had found threatening. Through the 1980s, representations of unstoppable killing machines (i.e. The Terminator, 1984) gave way to caring machines with Christ-like preparedness to sacrifice themselves to save mankind (i.e. Terminator II, 1991). Implications of such cinematic story-telling, as Bernard Stiegler observes, weave themselves into our consciousness.
This paper uses clips in analysing the trope of screens-within-screens as a means by which mainstream film articulates complex yet commonly understood technical relations. The first screen to appear in WALL-E clearly functions as narrative exposition, but as a 500-year-old advertisement for a multi-national organisation, it reiterates the capabilities of automated recording and the vulnerability of humanity. Furthermore, its expression of corporate arrogance is a version of Shelley’s Ozymandias, creating a propagandistic monument that retains what Stiegler calls objective memories ‘of a past that I enforcedly did not myself live.’ (Technics and Time, 3: 28)
A television showing video clips of Hello Dolly (1969) provides an objective memory of humanity for WALL-E; this footage becomes a virtual illustration of Stiegler’s above notion that cinema is of the order of the dream, by functioning as a mechanical dream for the robot EVE, helping her to rescue humanity from technological dictatorship.