Frederick Back

film 5 of 7

All Nothing

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 1, 2015

Back has fashioned his very own creation myth here. It’s a pretty great one. The moment of creation, which makes flesh the mind of God, is superbly concise, achieving a simultaneous simplicity and magnitude. Also, what a lovely design for the Deity. Back’s metamorphoses are dizzying in number and variety, but each one is also just right, delicate and sufficient. Every single thing is beautiful, and precious, and also part of a bigger evolutionary process. The intimation is that the correct response is to be happy and humble, and to walk lightly. Conservation is his Ultimate Concern.

The creation of man and woman comes as a culmination, sort of. We’re rational, which makes us special, and we’re eventual and habitual destoyers, which makes us something else altogether. That being the case, or the mixed-feelings paradox that they’re presenting, the episode is properly and effectively underplayed. Later there’s a sort of Once and Future King episode (T.H. White, 1958, part 1), in which Adam and Eve, as it were, get to live the life of the fish, the fauna, and the fowl. This experience could and should have made them empathetic, but their empathy too quickly gives way to pique and dissatisfaction.

This is not exactly a Judeo-Christian scenario, but the primordial couple still lose their place in the Garden. It’s not really disobedience that leads to this particular Fall, but rather the establishment of Dominion as the Man’s fundamental value, his great objective. Oh, and killing God might not have helped either.

The animated changes that now follow are as impressive as the first, pretty ones, the difference being that they are now so dire. Notice also how mythology morphs into history, and—of course—green-ridden ideology. The film ends with a coda that’s both hopeful and cautionary. God, or the mythologically benevolent nature notion of God, can save us if we want. The rest is left to us. These are lofty, expansive ideas. This is an utterly able, confident illustration thereof. Some filmmaker!