As with my previous documentary, Trop c'est assez, this film arose from dissidence.
At first, it was a revolt against the defeat of thought, against the depreciation of life with thought. The conversion of the educational system into a vocational-training system was a primary reason, as was the advent of a society where information reigned, while the development of actual knowledge was outmoded. A picture guided me, an etching by Francisco Goya entitled, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters", from the series, Los Caprichos.
Then an editorial by Ignacio Ramonet, "La pensée unique", appeared in the January, 1995, edition of Le Monde Diplomatique. It gradually wove its way through my mind, and the object of my revolt slowly changed, resting instead on the sclerosis of political thought, given that everything is political. Under siege by dogmatic ideology, pluralist political thought had mutated into a single scheme to strip the State of its powers and hand them over to market interests that supposedly knew how to do everything better.
From being merely dominant, the reasoning of the propertied masters had become crushing and irrefragable. Relayed via a tentacular network of propaganda and indoctrination that exploited all conceivable arenas, this pensée unique went unimpeded, especially since the fall of the USSR, and so naturally acquired the force of law. Following the collapse of the Communist régimes, Francis Fukuyama, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's strategic cell, went as far as announcing "the end of History", because according to him Man had reached the pinnacle of glory: one could never aspire to a more serene happiness than that of living in a representative democracy governed by liberalism; nothing could be more perfect than the undivided reign of the market.
Also, a phenomenal quantity of "experts", "consultants", "specialists", journalists and private-sector managers got zealously involved in a whirlwind of mesmerizing proselytism that engulfed any attempted contestation in its path. Even so-called leftist political parties, unionists and academics across the board yielded to this grand movement of intellectual assimilation, which demanded ever less State and ever more market, more competiveness. And woe to anyone who dared contradict them! No one even deigned to listen, immediately rejecting with weighty authority any argument that might discredit established economic logic, ridiculing such poor fools with the supreme insults reserved for heretics: mindless idealists, blinkered Stalinists, unrealistic leftists, nostalgic or naive hippies, dangerous dreamers, frustrated Luddites, dinosaurs, etc.
That's why I decided to make a film not on the globalization of the economy – many had already been made – but on the globalization of a system of thought. A film about mind control, brainwashing, ideological conformism; about the omnipresent irrefutability of a new monotheism, with its engraved commandments, burning bushes and golden calves.
As in my previous film, I decided to express this revolt in speech. Strong, straightforward, rigorous, informed speech, free to express itself at length to complete its ideas. There was no question of me restricting this speech or forcing it to conform to television conventions, using fast-paced editing to make it artificially dynamic, giving it a deceptive air of objectivity, or eluding complex topics. Nor did I want to use too much "visual lubricant" – archival or illustrative images that would have compromised the film's cohesiveness and tainted the participants' interventions. I inserted these only when absolutely necessary. I felt it was crucial that the incisive, captivating speech of these eminent thinkers fill the screen, and that the audience fall sway to the fascination of listening, as I had.
I deliberately set out to develop a filmic thesis that was overtly unique, in both form and content. Also, my film proceeds from several aesthetic biases. For example, it was shot in 16mm black-and-white film at a time when people advocate only digital video. Why? Simply because I find it beautiful. And because black-and-white seems to impart a kind of timelessness to the film. And finally, I prefer to confine myself to the film discipline that demands more conciseness and precision, since its cost requires shooting less and ensuring that the essential is said in 11 minutes (the duration of a reel).
On the other hand, the idea of using voiceover put me off. I decided to use intertitles instead. These allow me to structure the film, provide supplementary explanations not mentioned by the interviewees, take a stand personally and open the door to a second, more emotional level of meaning through music. Music that, while rich and audacious, doesn't hinder the reading of the texts.
Finally, I decided not to identify my subjects during the film, as is usually done in television. People have reproached me for this, but I held firm because this relative anonymity focuses the viewer's attention on the messages, not the messengers.
Since I got the initial idea, it has taken me almost twelve years to finish this film. True, I'm a rather scattered person, a polymath who likes to get involved in all kinds of causes. But I also like to take time to evolve with a project in order to deepen it. The fantastic thing is that now, twelve years later, the relevance of Encirclement is more burning than ever. The current world economic crisis is the direct result of the neoliberal reforms fuelled by free-market ideology and laissez-faire practices. But unfortunately, I still don't believe the death knell has tolled. The present monetary and fiscal system inherited from Nixon is nowhere near being overhauled and as things stand I don't imagine the plethora of privatizations and deregulation that have taken place worldwide will be reversed. On the contrary, we keep privatizing profitable enterprises, nationalizing businesses that generate losses and calling for more free trade.
I hope my film will at least be able to contribute, however humbly, to a broader questioning of the foundations of this deleterious ideology, and to making it recede.
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