2081

2081

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2081 Reviews

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Idrees K
Super Reviewer
½ June 10, 2011
Good short film. It had a few flaws but I liked the idea. Obviously there were some great themes explored.
Dr. A December 21, 2010
A very good adaptation of the orwellian-like short story by Kurt Vonnegut titled Harrison Bergeron. It's very well shot and structured. The only beef I had with the adaptation is that if the viewer hasn't read the 5 page story, some of the on-screen story will be lost.

All in all, it's a good short to watch.
jwillbanks jwillbanks December 4, 2010
I first read "Harrison Bergeron" in my ninth grade English class seven years ago and have re-read it every couple of years since. When I saw the mindblowing trailer for "2081" last year I could not wait to see the film. After months of waiting the DVD was finally released. To say that it did not disappoint would be an understatement of epic proportions. I was blown away by the film, easily one of the best book-to-film adaptations I have seen. Vonnegut's films have generally been adapted terribly in the past, and this is probably the first one I've seen that really works. Every bit of the brilliance of Vonnegut's story shines through in the film, and the few departures from the source material are basically just tweaks to modernize the story and ground it a bit more in reality.

It's short (about 25 min), but to have made it any longer would have required adding original story material and would have adulterated Vonnegut's beautifully concise story. There was a feature length adaptation of Harrison Bergeron in the 90's that tried this (starring Christopher Plummer and Sean Astin) quite unsuccessfully. Even with a great cast and much bigger budget, Harrison Bergeron did not work as a feature film. But at 25 minutes, 2081 thrives as an entirely self-contained narrative set in a fully-realized dystopian world. It is a truly beautiful film and was obviously a labor of love for the filmmakers. There are no cut corners to clue you off that this is an indie film, and the production values rival those of any big-budget theatrical feature.

The cast is pitch-perfect. Armie Hammer - who is currently getting Oscar buzz for his role in The Social Network - headlines as Harrison Bergeron. He could not have better cast in the role. Rounding out the stellar ensemble, you'll notice quite a few other familiar faces of fantastic character actors that everyone will recognize but even if you don't know their names The casting truly could not have been more perfect.

The score is beautifully performed by the superlative Kronos Quartet (Requiem for a Dream) and is easily the best that I have heard in a short film. Seriously. Epic. It puts to shame all but the most epic Hans Zimmer-style big screen feature scores. I have seriously not enjoyed a score this much since "The Dark Knight." Listen to the trailer for a sample if you don't believe me. WHEN will this soundtrack be available on iTunes????

The visuals are mesmerizing, dark, and beautiful. Top notch in every regard. This film could not be more relevant to the national conversation today. I still can't believe this is a short film. Are short films supposed to be this good?

First time director Chandler Tuttle is most definitely a guy to watch.
Vicki L September 24, 2014
Perfect companion video to the Vonnegut short story featured in the 10th grade McDougal-Littell Anthology. Not exactly as the story they read, but still the theme strongly comes across as a visual representation. The director takes Vonnegut's story and creates a powerful window into what it means to treat everyone completely equal. 30 minutes worth a watch.
mark d. mark d. July 28, 2014
It was shown for the first time at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 29, 2009. Chandler Tuttle wrote and directed the film. It is based on the short story "Harrison Bergeron" by author Kurt Vonnegut. There are few actors in the film. The Kronos Quartet and Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra performed thesoundtrack written by Lee Brooks.[1]

IMDB ranks the movie in the top 10 Most Popular Short movies
Anthony Marro Anthony Marro ½ July 2, 2013
A very condensed piece of work that is becoming more and more appropriate as time goes on.
Andrew O August 25, 2013
A beautiful, moving short film which perfectly illustrates Kurt Vonnegut's short story, Harrison Bergeron.
Keith S ½ August 4, 2013
as good as it gets...
Hope C June 18, 2013
The acting and music were exceptional. The concept compelling. Wonderful, short movie. Vonnegut might be proud with the end result.
Shaun D ½ April 28, 2013
When I first heard about 2081, an independent film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," earlier in the year, I had high hopes that something good would come of it. I am always skeptical of adaptations of science fiction works largely because they have been periodically butchered by Hollywood producers for decades. But after seeing the trailer, I had a feeling that this would be a film to see, and when I was offered the chance to review the DVD, I jumped on it.

And? I'm happy to say that I am not disappointed. 2081 is both an excellent adaptation of Vonnegut's short story and a visually arresting, emotionally-charged film that makes the most of its modest runtime (25 minutes). It succeeds where, sadly, most full-length science fiction films have not by presenting a self-contained, complicated (but not convoluted) plot in a developed and fully-realized future.

2081 is set in a world where true equality is mandated by law. The strong must wear weights so that they aren't stronger than anyone else; the intelligent wear transmitters that send loud, distracting sounds into their heads to keep them from being more intelligent; and the beautiful must wear masks, lest their beauty afford them an advantage over others. Vonnegut's vision of the future conjoins equality politics and government intervention, pushing them both to their limit.

2081 presents Vonnegut's world in detail, changing the original story only when necessary and leaving the main thrust of Vonnegut's narrative, and the ultimate social critique within it, intact. From a film perspective, this is risky, because faithful adaptations (or even semi-faithful adaptations) often flounder due to the untranslatable elements that exist within stories. But 2081 succeeds, partly because of its length and partly because of the cleverness of the creators; instead of drawing the story out into a full-length film or drastically changing the plot or characters, the creators of 2081 instead add minor details to thicken the social critique and keep the story contained within a thirty-minute time span, which prevents already thin narrative elements from being dragged out to infinity. These two elements create a vision that is perhaps darker than the satirical "Harrison Bergeron," but equally as poignant and gripping. Much of what I perceived as the humor (dark though it may be) in the original story seems to have been lost in the film, but to the benefit of the story, rather than to its detriment. 2081 is supposed to threaten our sense of security, both in our biological makeup and natural right to advantage, and in our strong hold on the protected nuclear family (social Darwinism vs. capitalism's influence on the nuclear family as the family unit we see today). Drawing out the influence of family on Vonnegut's narrative and making it far more central and troubling than in the original story makes 2081 into a powerful family tragedy, since the struggles of a family (and father) to remember a lost loved one amidst handicaps that make such remembrance impossible suggest undertones of Alzheimer's disease--the primary difference being that 2081's future is preventable. But the strength of the narrative is not the film's only strong point.

From a visual perspective, 2081 is modest, but expertly crafted. To be fair, "Harrison Bergeron" is not an intergalactic tale, nor an extravagantly scenic one. All of its scenes are set in relatively simple locations: a home and a theater, for example. But these locations are handled well and serve to enhance the more technological aspects of the presented world--the high point of the visuals for me. Televisions are updated to be slightly more interactive and noticeably more advanced (one of the characters fixes the television at the beginning of the film to highlight this); even the programs on the TV are shifted so that we get a sense of Vonnegut's world both from the interaction of the two primary characters and from the world outside as relayed from a proxy device (the TV).

Likewise, the machinery that makes everyone "equal" is marked by lighted displays (CGed as far as I can tell), presumably to suggest that there are details to be seen there that we don't actually need to see to get the point (except, perhaps, to remind us that the removal of these devices comes with a heavy penalty, which implies that the government is always watching). All of these minor changes to the objects are handled with care in a way that many science fiction films are incapable of doing: they are not gimmicks or CG-extravagant monstrosities to light up the screen, but accessories to heighten the impact of the world.

However, the film does not stop there. It becomes obvious throughout who the central figure is, not just because the character in question receives the most screen time, but noticeably because the screen itself distorts as the "equality" machinery works to keep his intellectual capacities at bay. These distortions are nothing new in science fiction (let alone film in general), but are used, much like the slight alterations to the technology presented on screen, to highlight the severity of the reality of 2081's future. We, like the characters, are regularly disoriented by these shifts, but only for a moment; the result is that we are left with the truth, while the characters are subjected to full disorientation.

But effective disorientation requires good acting, and 2081 delivers just that. James Cosmo (as George Bergeron) is superb here; Cosmo has moments where we can both hear and see the tremendous weight left on his character's shoulders by a tragic past and the world itself (literally and metaphorically). For a story with very little dialogue, 2081 has to relay a great deal of its emotive power through facial and bodily expression, which Cosmo displays with great aptitude. Even Julie Hagerty (known best, perhaps, for her role in Airplane! some thirty years ago) fulfills her role as Hazel Bergeron with such success, playing the somewhat dimwitted un-handicapped wife/mother with skill (Hazel even has a kind of charm that both amuses and annoys). Armie Hammer as Harrison Bergeron, though in the film for only a brief moment, is also enjoyable, and slightly creepy; he plays the role with a sense of desperation and insanity (and hopefully I'm not the only one that sees allusions to Malcolm McDowell's portrayal of Alex in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange).

No film, however, is flawless. Certain aspects of the visuals did feel a tad shaky (which is why I suspected that they were CGed, as indicated above). In the end, this didn't bother me enough to see it as a serious problem, and I think it would be fair to say that I am extraordinarily picky when it comes to CG use (Michael Bay has effectively destroyed CG for me). There are also some issues to be had with the structure of the plot. While I applaud the creators for sticking to the source material, I still feel as though the ending lacks a full sense of closure. Perhaps this is a personal hangup, but since 2081 shifts minor elements in the story to make the ending more climactic than Vonnegut's original story, there seems to be a greater need for a more effective closure beyond that of the source material. I suspect that this is part of the reason some critics have had minor issues with the film. Personally, I think the lack of closure is both problematic and interesting, and worth exploring should anyone be interested (I may do just that). Still, 2081 feels constrained by a larger story sitting underneath Vonnegut's narrative--a story that never fully gets told, but probably shouldn't be simply because of Hollywood's obsession with expanding short stories into grander projects (see the plethora of Philip K. Dick monstrosities on IMDB).

(Even as I write about this last "issue," however, I get the sense that it isn't actually a problem so much as a bit of narrative genius. You'll have to watch the film to understand, because I'm not particularly interested in spoiling films, let alone books or stories. When you see the end, though, you should do as I did and try to consider why it exists as it does, and what it says about the world, the characters, and the satirical critique being presented.)

Whether the changes alluded to here should have been written out or fulfilled is up to debate. In the grand scheme of things, however, it doesn't really matter, because despite this single flaw, 2081 is an excellent short film. Any fan of serious science fiction should consider giving this film its due space, whether by buying it on DVD or renting it on YouTube (yes, they do that now). Despite the high DVD price ($11.99, or $1.99 to rent), this film is absolutely worth it (a claim I cannot make for most Hollywood SF productions). It's the kind of film that a critic feels compelled to write about, and that a fan will cherish for years to come (I am both at the same time).

If you'd like to learn more about 2081 and the creators, check out their website at Finally Equal.

Directing: 5/5
Cast: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Visuals: 4.5/5
Adaptation: 4/5
Overall: 4.6/5
Value: $10.50 (based on a $10.50 max)(this number is based on movie ticket value)

P.S.: I should note that the packaging for 2081 is quite beautiful. Whoever did the DVD case design deserves recognition for keeping it simple and elegant at the same time. They should then be hired to do all DVD case designs for every Hollywood and independent production company in the world.

--This review originally appeared on my personal blog, The World in the Satin Bag.
Patrick S August 13, 2011
Awful. I read a lot of hype about this short film and I just feel like I've wasted 25 minutes of my life. Maybe it's the fault of the source material that the film was lacking in originality and interest. I was not moved, impressed or even entertained.
Idrees K
Super Reviewer
½ June 10, 2011
Good short film. It had a few flaws but I liked the idea. Obviously there were some great themes explored.
Lewis M March 12, 2011
Fantastic insight into the future... everyone is equal... the smart + talented are punished....
Jonathan W March 22, 2010
I first read "Harrison Bergeron" in my ninth grade English class seven years ago and have re-read it every couple of years since. When I saw the mindblowing trailer for "2081" last year I could not wait to see the film. After months of waiting the DVD was finally released. To say that it did not disappoint would be an understatement of epic proportions. I was blown away by the film, easily one of the best book-to-film adaptations I have seen. Vonnegut's films have generally been adapted terribly in the past, and this is probably the first one I've seen that really works. Every bit of the brilliance of Vonnegut's story shines through in the film, and the few departures from the source material are basically just tweaks to modernize the story and ground it a bit more in reality.

It's short (about 25 min), but to have made it any longer would have required adding original story material and would have adulterated Vonnegut's beautifully concise story. There was a feature length adaptation of Harrison Bergeron in the 90's that tried this (starring Christopher Plummer and Sean Astin) quite unsuccessfully. Even with a great cast and much bigger budget, Harrison Bergeron did not work as a feature film. But at 25 minutes, 2081 thrives as an entirely self-contained narrative set in a fully-realized dystopian world. It is a truly beautiful film and was obviously a labor of love for the filmmakers. There are no cut corners to clue you off that this is an indie film, and the production values rival those of any big-budget theatrical feature.

The cast is pitch-perfect. Armie Hammer - who is currently getting Oscar buzz for his role in The Social Network - headlines as Harrison Bergeron. He could not have better cast in the role. Rounding out the stellar ensemble, you'll notice quite a few other familiar faces of fantastic character actors that everyone will recognize but even if you don't know their names The casting truly could not have been more perfect.

The score is beautifully performed by the superlative Kronos Quartet (Requiem for a Dream) and is easily the best that I have heard in a short film. Seriously. Epic. It puts to shame all but the most epic Hans Zimmer-style big screen feature scores. I have seriously not enjoyed a score this much since "The Dark Knight." Listen to the trailer for a sample if you don't believe me. WHEN will this soundtrack be available on iTunes????

The visuals are mesmerizing, dark, and beautiful. Top notch in every regard. This film could not be more relevant to the national conversation today. I still can't believe this is a short film. Are short films supposed to be this good?

First time director Chandler Tuttle is most definitely a guy to watch.
Kel L October 24, 2010
In my opinion, this is about as good as film gets.
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