“Set in a futuristic industrial dystopia with a 1950s soviet realist aesthetic, “Trauma Industries” is the story of a boy brought to celebrate his birthday at the grounds of a factory that manufactures the must-have toy of the era.
The boy has one of these toys, and is visibly attached to it. But the manager takes the toy away from him because he is now too old for such a thing.
He fights to get his beloved toy back as a crowd of workers gathers in front of a ceremonial stage. The ensuing chase through the crowd leads him onto the stage where he himself becomes part of the spectacle, subjected to a brutal initiation ceremony that will see him finally “become a man”.
Trauma Industries is the brainchild of Jethro Massey who intended the film’s script and style to be directly inspired by the powerful propaganda imagery of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. We all know the imagery that he talks about, pictures of workers staring heroically into the distance as they toil for the greater good of the motherland. Sometimes they hold a symbol of all that is good for providing for the masses – tools, equipment or fists of grain to emphasise such philosophies of working for the greater good of society etc etc etc.
The Photography of Aleksandr Rodchenko, the films of Dziga Vertov and such others were used as tools of inspiration and propaganda by the Soviet machine. While this imagery was used to forward tyrannical regimes, the images themselves are, to Jethro’s mind, amongst the most creative, striking and powerful ever made. Trauma Industries intended to re-appropriate the style, the camera angles, the geometry of composition, the industrial landscapes, the poses and the wardrobe of the era in a modern-futurist science-fiction that questions our voluntary slavery to the contemporary digital technocracy.
Well the answer is a definitive yes, of that there is no question. To begin with, the visual style of Trauma Industries is quite simply stunning. Whether it be the costumes, the industrial location or the plethora of propaganda imagery everywhere one looks, the visual authenticity is as authentic and powerful as the filmmakers originally intended. The film was shot on super 35mm film, now while I’m not going to begin to try to explain (or understand) what exactly that means in English, but what I do know is that it further serves to provide a truly authentic visual feel for the whole concept, The result is such is that one can almost smell the aroma of workers sweat, feel the heat of the burning furnaces and sense first-hand the feeling of resignation and subservience of the beaten down workers to those who hold the power.
However don’t think that this film is simply a dour and depressing science fiction treatment of Soviet dystopia – because dour and depressingly it is not. In truth, I’m amazed at the amount of ideas that have been squeezed in to the relatively short running time of just under eleven minutes, some of which are very, very clever. For a start I would keep your eyes peeled for the juxtaposition of the advertising & motivational slogans contained in the images on the walls of the factory as the narrative progresses- examples such as “Free yourself” pretty female models implores as the workers arrive en masse, “Rejuvenate!” appears on an advertisement for skin cream as a workers hair is ceremonials butchered, “Our little secret ” appears on an advertisement as the factory owner whispers malevolently to the boy and finally “Be yourself!” appears on another advertisement as the workers turn in perfect unison.
In addition there is the underlying narrative regarding the loss of childhood innocence and enjoyment in the form of the toy of choice the ‘Smile-Rite X Bear’, a toy provided by the industrial masters and eventually removed by the very same people……. all in the name of continuing control and of course, production.
As I said, very, very clever.
Trauma Industries is a genuinely powerful emotional experience as it explores numerous themes of the loss of childhood innocence and wonder and then subsequently on to the journey to becoming simply another cog in the workers wheel. The final destination is the loss of any sense of independence, whilst all the while the ‘rulers’ are becoming ever richer on the production of toys that provide the very essence of childhood, only to brutally remove that connection when the child becomes old enough to contribute to the creation of the toy itself.
If you like your science fiction and fantasy to be emotionally intelligent, thought-provoking and exciting……. well this is the film for you.
You can find out more about where and when you can see this remarkable short film at the following links;
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