Posted by: Jessica Stephens | February 28, 2010

Sam Green’s ‘Utopia’ a return to a sense of community

If you want to see “Utopia in Four Movements,” you won’t see it on an iPhone. That’s because director Sam Green wants audiences to watch films with other people, as a community.

For his latest, he ensured that his audience’s only option for watching the work is to watch it together. At performances, Green accompanies the film with live narration while musician Dave Cerf provides the soundtrack, making “Utopia” a unique blend of film and live performance.

Green’s method of delivery is especially fitting for the film’s subject: four phases of the 20th century and what they reveal about our culture’s collective belief that we can make a better world for ourselves — and each other.

Green’s examples of attempts to create Utopia — the Esperanto language, the Communist Revolution, the invention of the shopping mall and forensic anthropology — might be somewhat surprising. But the director explores both the advantages and defects of each movement without judgment, focusing instead on the intentions of the people behind them.

The tragedy of the 20th century, he concludes, isn’t that these attempts to create Utopia failed, but that people stopped believing Utopia is possible.

The film is not a call to action. In fact, Green says more than once that the word Utopia means “no place,” that we are never going to find it. But even if a perfect world community is impossible, our attempts to create that perfect world bring “a certain loveliness and joy” to the present.

That sense of hope is something Green wants his audience to experience together.

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