Israel-born and US-based filmmaker Guy Moshe’s latest project LX 2048, a satirical dystopian sci-fi feature starring James D’Arcy and Delroy Lindo, recently hit streaming platforms on September 25th. Ahead of its premiere, Kyle Milner had the chance to dive deeper into its themes and ideas with Guy Moshe.
Kyle: Congratulations on the film’s release! It has a hell of a lot of interesting ideas, so I’m thankful for the opportunity to pick your brain a little bit about a lot of its concepts.
Guy: Anything you want, sure!
Kyle: Despite LX 2048’s dystopian future setting, there are a lot of parallels between it and what’s going on in our time with the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, people struggling with the difficulties of physical intimacy; not being able to connect with each other in the same ways. Even right now speaking to you on Zoom, we’ve had no choice but to take social interaction to the virtual realm. Obviously it’s not something that nobody could have possibly predicted ever happening, but it’s pretty crazy.
Guy: Definitely. I think the film achieved a certain kind of timeliness that none of us could have ever expected when I wrote it. And even the last couple of weeks of work on the film happened during the pandemic, and it was still just the onset. I don’t think that, in March or April, any one of us thought we would still be living through it come September. So it’s certainly feeling very, very timely right now.
I think what I would say, which I think is fair and hopefully not sounding too prophetic, is that I did see this a number of years ago already with the rise of use of social networks and tablets. Especially the way my own kids interact with the outside world. I couldn’t help but notice that there’s a trend going on that is bigger than the pandemic; this idea that we have now developed such dependency on our devices in the sense of interacting with the outside world that this can only lead to some sort of a future isolated life experience.
I was watching my kids on a playdate, and as you do, the parents would normally go and drink coffee in the kitchen or something while they play. You go to check on your kids, and here they are, both on their own devices you didn’t realise they’d even brought along, sitting next to each other.
In my own home, I’ve enacted some strong rules around technology. I distinctly remember that feeling. The first time I saw one of my children having a playdate where, instead of interacting physically with other kids, they chose to play the same game. They were playing some game where you can play online with each other, but they were sitting next to each other and playing this game. It was shocking.
There were a lot of other things that I’ve noticed that I think gave birth to this movie. The genesis of the script was just going to the supermarket and seeing more and more of these machines, and less and less of physical cashiers and such. I was just thinking, is there going to be a moment where you’re just going to come and get your groceries and nobody’s going to be there?
I don’t know why it hit me like that, because we had video stores back in the day where you go and take a film when nobody’s there, but that’s a different thing. When you go and buy eggs and milk and such that you’re going to biologically consume, it just feels wrong to then interact with just a machine.
All sorts of thoughts like this – people getting fired because their job description doesn’t exist anymore. Malls going out of business because everybody is buying online. So there was this kind of trend where I started feeling like it’s all going virtual. We’re not noticing it, but we’re ordering our food online, we’re ordering our clothes, our furniture online. Everything is coming to our doorstep.
And now, because of the pandemic, more and more people realise that you can actually work remotely as well. It’s not necessarily less efficient in terms of what you’re supposed to produce as an employee, but to be alone, it’s bizarre. So, I saw that all in the air. I never expected this to be any more than a satirical warning sign to a future that may happen. I wanted to ask, “do you believe this can ever happen?”. And as fate would have it, I’m now talking about this happening.
Kyle: Yeah, it’s interesting: reality’s kind of taken it to the extreme in a very unexpected way.
Guy: Absolutely. I mean, look – are you in Los Angeles as well?
Kyle: No, I’m actually all the way down in New Zealand.
Guy: Man! Are you kidding me? Just so you know, I’m originally from Israel. And when my military service ended, I spent two months in your country that I’ll never forget. I’ve done every trail from the North Island to the South island.
So speaking of being connected, I remember being in New Zealand, and I’ll never forget this: I did one hike where I did not see an electric post or a road or anything like that for three days. I remember thinking later that I’ve never had that kind of experience. Until then, because my country was so small, even though I was in the military, you can’t walk more than a few miles until you hit some sort of asphalt road. So speaking of our film, just in terms of connectivity to nature, I think your country’s way ahead of the competition.
Two weeks ago, we had one of the hottest weekends in the recorded history of California. And then a week later, all these terrible fires started. Now, before you leave the house, you check the air quality index. I didn’t even know what that was until last week. And I was joking about it in the film, with the toxic level drop off! I can’t believe it was happening.
Kyle: It’s ended up being strangely prophetic, in a way. Which is interesting and a little bit scary as well!
Guy: Absolutely scary. But there was a bit of a sense of humour in the film, which I think is kind of the way I feel about all this. I think that part of it is something we should pay attention to, and part of it is just inevitable. You have to roll with the punches a bit.
Kyle: For sure. Another aspect of the film I found really interesting was the exploration of identity and the elements of self – what makes you distinctly you. Especially when contrasted with your sense of self through someone else’s eyes. I’m curious as to whether there was any particular philosophical research or study that inspired you to explore that?
Guy: I had some experiences around age 21, just a little before I left after finishing my military service in Israel. They opened my eyes to something that has evolved over the years – and I suppose they’ve now found their way into this movie – which is that I realised we have four versions of ourselves.
There’s something that’s the true version of ourselves, which I don’t think any one of us can ever really know. The true self is not something you can rationalise or intellectualise, because the moment you think and reflect about it, it distorts a little bit. But somewhere in there is some sort of objective version of the self.
What we do most of the time is, we go out there and we try to project a certain image, a kind of façade we put on ourselves, which we believe in and want other people to see us as – to varying degrees of success, right? So when we’re too successful at that, we’re living a lie. Everyone thinks we’re so great, but we’re not. We internally feel we’re lying to people. And when we’re unsuccessful at doing that, we feel like maybe we’re failing, because we’re feeling that in the eyes of the outside world, we’re not accomplishing something.
So these are two versions of us. Then there is the third version of us, which is when we interact with other people, we kind of morph to cater to what they’re expecting us to be. And then there is the fourth version of us, which is the potential that we may never realise for ourselves. This would be the best version of ourselves. We might not even be able to quantify what that is.
I think if you look at the movie, I was trying to take the character through all these different kinds of stations in the place he’s at in his life. For me, it’s not just one philosophical kind of notion or another. What happened to me is that I was very much confronted with myself; not in the typical spiritual Ayahuasca retreat way, but more in a real world experience kind of way.
I started realising that if you ever want to become the best version of yourself, try to be the same person throughout. You try to be the same when you’re alone as well as when you’re with people. That’s obviously much easier said than done. I started this thing where I give myself a debrief at the end of the day; to go back through the experiences of the day and not judge myself or be upset with anything that I’ve done, but to check off whether I’ve behaved as what I think is my true self or whether I was acting like a stupid version of something I wanted to be.
So I’ve been doing that for many, many years. I don’t think you could ever do enough of it, you can only succeed in it. But it’s certainly a philosophical belief that I hold that the Holy Grail is to try and maintain yourself as the same human being throughout life. To just be one image, you know?
Kyle: Self-awareness and self-critique; you really can’t over-estimate them for how powerful they can be as an influence in your life.
Guy: Of course. I mean, in the film I’m poking fun at it. But I think the other thing that is interesting is when you get older, you get into a relationship – suddenly, you become a family nucleus. You’re no longer just an individual. So you now have to adjust to people that live with you under the same household, and they have their own image of you. And you’re not always able to communicate yourself in the way that you want. So if you look at the film, I think it’s all in there. That’s what the film is about.
Kyle: I suppose we’re getting close to the end of our time here, but one thing I really wanted to touch on was the aesthetic of the film’s world. There’s a very interesting visual aesthetic, and even though there’s a lot of single location sequences, you managed to give depth to the outside world without necessarily showing it to the viewer.
A lot of it was implied through the VR headset, and we don’t often see what the characters are actually seeing within the VR space. I found that my brain was kind of filling in the blanks a lot; is that something you were particularly aiming for?
Guy: Thank you – if there’s one thing that’s fun for a filmmaker, it’s for somebody to notice the things that you’re doing without putting a magnifying glass on it for the audience. Because the film is about the human condition, and what it means to be human, I decided to refrain from taking a stop to show you my directorial vision.
I didn’t want to have any drone shots or anything like that. I just wanted us to experience the world through Adam’s journey as he’s going through it. As hallucinatory as it becomes, it becomes the one place where I didn’t want to see what he’s seeing physically. I only do it once, and it’s for a very deliberate reason.
I wanted to show that, from the human condition perspective, this is what we look like when we’re stepping into the virtual realm. And if that looks ridiculous, it’s probably because to some level, it is. We’re kind of deliberately blinding ourselves. Everything about philosophy and about awareness and knowledge is about seeing and seeing the light – in a metaphorical sense.
So what does it mean that we’re now blinding ourselves in transitioning to another form of interaction? What I wanted to do was alternate these perspectives.
I had it very much rooted in my mind that in this movie, you cannot be outside too much. As tough as it is as a filmmaker, and as tough as it might be on audience members, I felt the only way to understand that is to not be in those places to the point that it feels a bit uneasy. You get what he’s going through because of it. The cumulative effect of that, of course, is that I’m now being helped by the fact that everybody’s going through this in real life anyhow!
Kyle: Kind of a silver lining, I guess. I think the movie’s given me a lot to chew on even after finishing it. I’m always hopeful that with any movie that it’ll stay with you beyond the runtime, and I think you’re given me a lot to think about, especially with what we’re going through in the real world right now. So you’ve done a good job.
Guy: Thank you, sir. Thank you. It was a lot of fun making it, and I’m very hopeful and happy to talk to you and people out there. I think, as a filmmaker, what I really want to do – and hopefully this doesn’t sound condescending or anything, because that’s not at all the thought behind it. But I think there’s a lot of room – maybe even more room – for people to make entertaining cinema. And that’s totally fine. But me personally, I love to do things that are a bit more thought provoking. And if all I can do is make somebody who watches my film – whether they love it or are uncertain about it – reflect or think about the questions I’m raising, then I feel like I’ve done my job. That’s all I really want to do.