Do you want to be a part of this community?
It’s been said many times throughout the COVID-19 lockdown (and subsequently too-early re-opening that threatens an even worse lockdown because Americans are entitled brats who can’t be bothered to do what’s right if it inconveniences them): We must stick together. The only way we’re going to survive this, protect innocent lives, and save the economy is by working in tandem. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home. Believe that you—yes you—are Patient Zero because, unless you’re showing symptoms right now, you very well could spark a deadly chain of events with a sneeze. Be selfless. Think of your neighbors. Know your life isn’t more valuable than the next. Your actions can literally control whether a stranger lives or dies. And their actions control whether you do.
Such sentiments are easier said than done in a nation that prides itself on individuality and the fallacy of a self-made American Dream. The moment you brainwash the masses into thinking they’re a day away from being millionaires despite the truth being that they’re actually seconds away from being homeless is the moment when paranoia replaces trust. It’s the moment when capitalist competition erases empathetic charity and our dog-eat-dog world finds itself over-fed with the bodies of those who leveraged their long-term, “just in case” security net for a high-risk fantasy created precisely to keep them under foot. Fighting against their hope for prosperity is often a Sisyphean undertaking because the more you try to save their reality, the more they think you’re stealing their dream.
It’s therefore easy to see how people could embrace the premise behind the horror of David Marmor‘s feature directorial debut 1BR. The notion that we can create a purely selfless community where everyone can prosper together is a wonderful thing to behold. Think of the group rather than the individual and watch as resources shift from a miniscule percentage of our population comprised of billionaire hoarders to those who are left suffering in the knowledge that “picking yourself up by your bootstraps” is as figuratively impossible an action as it is physically. Embrace it from the inside and wonder how others can remain blind. Attempt to educate them and ultimately get shot down before watching as your increasingly militant desires inevitably transform you in that which you abhor.
This is the inherent reality of extremes. The farther you pull yourself from sanity, the more unrecognizable you become from your enemy. It doesn’t matter if the dictatorship that controls you is fascist or communist—you’re still expendable collateral damage. Both political extremes demand your compliance and erase your civil liberties because both are acting out of a selfish desire for personal salvation. Both expunge your ability to be free and fallible. Both dictate how you must live your life. And both treat you like a cog in a machine. So don’t be surprised if someone you know tells you that Marmor’s film reveals the evil of progressive ideals. Hearing that only proves how brainwashed by partisan politics they’ve become. Torture is torture. Yours isn’t better than theirs.
A family member of mine who champions the use of force upon “rioters” unironically told me New York State had become an Orwellian dystopia because “King Andrew” decreed we must all wear masks. Rather than see how both extremes are problematic (albeit in grossly disproportionate ways), they’ve allowed themselves to embrace one over the other solely because it doesn’t impact their life right now. They don’t see how the former will affect them later once it learns its unfettered access can also bring suffering to their door. They don’t see the monster they’ve willfully unleashed because they believe they’re on the “right side” of history despite the Nazis already proving they aren’t. There’s always a line that cannot be crossed. Our duty is to remember where it is.
So while the apartment complex young Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) moves into upon traveling cross-country to restart her life in Los Angeles is utopian on paper, she must remain vigilant in questioning whether or not its sanctuary is real until the curtain is lifted to learn its motives. Maybe it is simply because the residents care about one another. Maybe Jerry (Taylor Nichols) and Janice (Naomi Grossman) have truly created a self-sustaining family from their tenants that provides emotional and physical support with no strings attached. Or maybe, like everything else in this world, every supposed paradise is too good to be true. We must maintain skepticism about anything that benefits us to keep the line in focus. Good fortune usually comes at the price of another’s pain.
It’s when socialist ideals are warped into communism that a fascist authoritarian regime takes over anyway. It’s one thing to care about your neighbor and another to force them into caring about you. That’s how experiments go wrong. That’s how freeing prisoners turns from emancipation into a different form of the same incarceration. Fear becomes the weapon of choice. Self-preservation becomes the tool with which we fall in tow. But happiness should never be conditioned. We can’t be happy within a broken system just because those in power promised we might hold the reins too. That’s why waking from the spell is oftentimes scarier than living under it. Only then will my family member realize their communist state exists within a fascist country. By then it’s too late.
Or maybe it’s just the beginning. Does Sarah resign herself to her fate at the end of 1BR or does she clench her fists to fight the oppressive forces on both sides of the spectrum? After everything she endures at the hand of her adoptive community, she’ll still have to test her morality to discover her place inside and outside its borders. She’ll have to see who amongst her neighbors (Giles Matthey‘s Brian, Susan Davis‘ Edie, and Clayton Hoff‘s amongst others) helped her for her benefit or their own. She’ll have to reconcile the uncertainty of life amongst the general population with the certainty of existence alongside those of like-minded ideals. At least out there she can fight for more. One person’s utopia is another’s Hell.
courtesy of Dark Sky Films