Less than a month after news broke that a French court had awarded a woman a disability allowance of $800 a month for suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, Quiet Zone is, if nothing else, a truly timely work. Directed by Karl Lemieux and David Bryant, the latter is a member of the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, has assembled a riveting and haunting look at the condition that many are unknowingly susceptible to. The film follows a woman suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity as she seeks refuge from a society increasingly reliant on gadgets.
As strange as it may sound, technology is literally crippling her life. She experiences mild-discomfort to severe pain by simply being around everything from Wi-Fi routers to cell phones to televisions and a whole host of other items. At one point she even admits that her friends have grown tired of her asking them to unplug all of their devices before she can come over to play cards. Even the “quiet zone” in Virginia, where cell phones are banned so that a telescope can record sounds in space, is not the safe haven it appears to be.
Considering that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is not linked to a particular organism, but is rather a series of various symptoms caused by electronics, it is understandable that others would be skeptical of her plight. Lemieux and Bryant do a wonderful job of putting the audience in the woman’s shoes. The experimental visuals keep us off-balance, we feel the world in the same way disorienting way she does. In one of the most chilling moments the woman states “it’s strange to feel electricity like a substance pouring over you. Sometimes you want to wash it away, but you can’t.”
Like an ominous mass eerily roaming without boundaries, the electricity generated by all our devices has created a modern post-apocalyptic landscape for those suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Comparing herself to a refugee, the woman comments that her only plan for survival is to hop in her van and drive around in hopes of finding a sanctuary. It is a plan that sound as if came straight out of an episode of The Walking Dead.
Part documentary, part experimental film, part cautionary tale, Quiet Zone is film that forces us to take an uncomfortable look at just how harmful our reliance on technology actually is.
Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 10:
Wednesday, September 16, 6:45 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Sunday, September 20, 3:15 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.