On Sleeper

You know, Woody Allen’s movie, Sleeper (1973), would be funny if it weren’t so profectic. Today we are obsessed with our smart phones, tablets, and laptops to the extent that we would be helpless to do anything if the power went out. Woody awakes in a future world to find giant cooperations taking over the world, technology has disconnected people from nature, and robots have a human form, but they all have the same face. The heart of his satire lies with the juxtaposition of his skinny anti-hero, who takes silly to greater heights, and an advanced civilization whose technology has long since outstripped its feeble ethics and morals. Governments have turned into mechanized oligarchies, and primitive revolutionary groups roam the countryside, spouting anarchy and non-conformity. Technology has triumphed over the human form, and physical love can only be done in a machine. Yet, his satire seems almost innocent. He riffs on the dangers of too much technology, the alienating nature of technology, and the absurd inventions that are supposed to make life better. He also riffs on government, control, oppression, revolution, science, religion, sex, and institutional corruption. The visuals, the dialogues, the jokes play on a well-established cinematic traditions, satirizing a series of films from the late sixties and early seventies that deal with apocalyptic end-of-civilization scenarios. The film only takes itself (half) seriously when the main characters plot to steal the “great” leader’s nose–all that is left of him. “We’re here to see the nose. We hear it’s running.” Sleeper also riffs on Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey, and Woody gives viewers a strange cautionary satire on the dangers of computers and how their interests are completely disconnected from humanity at all. The movie, in all its absurd silliness, seriously discusses the dehumanization of people as technology creeps in on all sides. This seems to be a common motif in the 21st century.