Liv­ing in the Fu­ture’s Past

LIV­ING IN THE FU­TURE’S PAST, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Vi­o­let Crown, 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

Some­times we ask noth­ing more of a movie than that it gives us some­thing to think about. And heck — here you get that right in the ti­tle.

Direc­tor Su­san Kucera re­vis­its ter­ri­tory she has trod be­fore in en­vi­ron­men­tal doc­u­men­taries like Breath of Life (2014) and Trad­ing on Thin Air (2010), ex­plor­ing who we are as a species and why we keep do­ing ter­ri­ble things to our planet. Here she’s joined by the film’s co-pro­ducer and host-nar­ra­tor Jeff Bridges, a man who knows a thing or two about the con­se­quences of cli­mate change, hav­ing been res­cued by he­li­copter this past Jan­uary from the roof of his home dur­ing a Mon­tecito mud­slide.

Bridges pro­vides a la­conic screen pres­ence, and star power, as he stares soul­fully out over a pris­tine land­scape and makes ob­ser­va­tions like, “This Earth was here be­fore us and will be here long af­ter we are gone …” (But the Dude abides.)

Kucera strews the film with talk­ing heads drawn from the worlds of sci­ence, phi­los­o­phy, academia, and pol­i­tics, along with some good com­mon sense. The com­men­tary is in­ter­laced with stun­ning and poignant vi­su­als of na­ture, his­tory, and the oc­ca­sional odd in­ter­jec­tion of im­agery that seems a lit­tle out of con­text, like a model in a wind­blown dress stand­ing on a rock over­look­ing the sea.

One of the main themes is our un­sus­tain­able de­vour­ing of en­ergy. We are, as one com­men­ta­tor ob­serves, “eat­ing our seed corn,” con­sum­ing the re­sources that we will re­quire to gen­er­ate fu­ture en­ergy. Kucera draws our at­ten­tion to the sci­ence of con­sumer mar­ket­ing that has us scram­bling to ac­quire things we re­ally don’t need, and shows how the roots of such be­hav­ior lie in the ori­gins of our species.

Cli­mate change is an im­por­tant fo­cus of the film. And one of the more in­ter­est­ing spokes­men for aware­ness of that dan­ger is a man you would not have found a dozen years ago sup­port­ing the case Al Gore made in An In­con­ve­nient Truth. Bob Inglis, a for­mer Repub­li­can con­gress­man from one of the coun­try’s staunch­est con­ser­va­tive strongholds in South Carolina, was a de­nier un­til his son took him aside and said, “Dad, I’ll vote for you, but you’re go­ing to have to clean up your act.” Inglis ad­mits that while he was in of­fice, it wasn’t po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent to look at the facts. “I didn’t re­ally know any­thing about it ex­cept that Al Gore was for it,” he says. “That was re­ally the end of the in­quiry.”

There’s much more. The film makes a com­pelling and com­plex case for a frag­ile and com­plex world, a place where all of us and all of na­ture make up a “su­per-or­gan­ism,” with each part de­pen­dent on the oth­ers.

The prospect is not with­out hope. So­lu­tions must and can be found. “In­ge­nu­ity is in our DNA,” Bridges as­sures us, and he throws out a chal­lenge. “Ask your­self, what kind of fu­ture would I like to see? And what am I will­ing to con­tribute that comes nat­u­rally to me?” — Jonathan Richards

What’s past is present

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