Like a good Twilight Zone or Black Mirror episode, Lapsis is a film that’s best entered into blind, just letting that concept slowly unravel so you can enjoy that sense of mystery as a viewer. For those of you that need more, then be warned that although there are no spoilers per se, the discussion of themes does verge upon spoiler territory. Suffice to say this film really does shine a light upon some of the amazingly innovative storytelling that can be done by independent filmmakers.
Ray (Dean Imperial) is struggling, not merely to financially support himself and his ailing younger brother (Babe Howard), but also to understand the changing quantum computer revolution that’s changing the world. In an attempt to earn some quick cash, Ray takes a job as a cable layer for that quantum network, using a rather dubious license. He finds himself plunged into a different world, with rules he barely understands, and a strange legacy held by the previous owner of the license, Lapsis Beeftech.
Lapsis is great science fiction, based in the fine tradition of using the unusual to explore and highlight a current issue. This is what Black Mirror has been doing so successfully on the small screen recently, and in many ways Lapsis feels like an expansion of this, setting our uneasy relationship with technology front and centre. However it is also very reminiscent of early David Cronenberg (Videodrome) in the way that it disorientates the viewer with it’s highly conceptual storyline. In Lapsis though, that extreme body horror metaphor of Cronenberg is replaced by the everyday strangeness of the gig economy. What’s the point of having a fleshy VHS cassette shoved into James Wood’s chest vagina, if the real world job market provides enough WTF moments to power a film?
Which is not to say that there isn’t other weirdness going on, Lapsis rests on the concept of alternative realities and quantum physics, so there’s certainly a jarring take on this, however at its heart it is the disorientation of a job with its own strange set of rules, alluring in its potential rewards, but savage in its pitfalls that is the real oddity. It is certainly different, but it draws enough uncomfortable parallels to land its social message.
Those uncomfortable parallels also act as comedic fodder. Anyone that’s worked in a modern office environment can recognise the jargonistic nonsense spewing from marketing and corporate. Those little catch phrases that are meant to energise and reassure, but functionally mean either nothing, or something that is the exact opposite to what it should. Seeing the more straightforward Ray, a man seemingly out of his era, reacting to these euphemisms really doesn’t get old. Dean Imperial does a great job of anchoring this unusual concept film, bringing a working class everyman to the screen with more than a dash of jovial charisma.
Director Noah Hutton has created an exceptional film that’s deserving of cult status. A tongue in cheek look at the gig economy, mechanisation, and corporate exploitation, Lapsis is a breath of fresh air.