The camera is a thing of beauty; it captures all the moments we seek when pressing that photo button or recording ourselves for a set duration to capture the moment. It has evolved over centuries to react to light, depth of field, and focus, and continues to be a device that radiates well with understanding why such moments of history or one’s life are documented. And The King Said, What a Fantastic Machine epitomizes the art of photography, which genuinely invigorates how to educate and entertain humanity.
You see, filmmakers Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck take us on a swift tour of how each event came after, documenting the Lumiere brothers to Ted Turner to the Nazi regime, and astronauts landing on the moon. And yet, they still have the time and endeavors to branch into the modern age of social media algorithms or pop culture trends that incentivize many to check their screens for new bits of entertainment. The entire duration is more or less a resonance of how the camera branches through history with a fierce juxtaposition and thoughtful insights from the voiceover (courtesy of Van Aerytryck).
And there’s more to the superficial showings of humorous clips or archival footage; the directors seem to tread along a subtle theme of how the camera commodifies our presence. Assuredly, things can be stretched out of proportion for the sake of fun. Still, it can hit consequential beats when it raises questions about things hidden from the viewer or captured moments that unconsciously harm the individual(s) that produce them.
Shall I say the obsession with the lens is contributing to our false narratives and years of deceit? Red flags pop up daily, so the viewer must be even more intelligent than the camera. The spectacle itself is a dangerous entity (Jordan Peele’s Nope wonderfully attributes to this motif). Danielson and Van Aertryck remain provocative with their material and continue to shine with a multifaceted feature about our developments with the moving image.
Case in point, Fantastic Machine is quite fantastic.