In Vermont, the Bennington Monolith stands proudly among trees. It seemed as if this Obelisk was in the middle of a forest. Who places a monolith in the middle of nowhere? By changing the perspective, one sees that it is standing in a town center and is not a lost mystical relict.
Wittgenstein’s philosophy teaches us that each word creates a unique image in each singular human; therefore, when one reads the word: “flower” every reader has a different image in their head; what about the word “democrat”? We could now say that every image is perceived differently by each viewer: the image of a “half-moon” isn’t read the same way by everybody. Further along, when an image is placed next to another, as we know from The Kuleshov Effect, the different interpretation of the recipient is what fascinates us.
In 2020, we experienced a rupture in our surroundings due to the perception of information we were being given on the pandemic and its accompanying lockdown. Misunderstandings led to disputes, which led to violence, which led to the end of relationships. Then January 6th suddenly became one of the most critical dates in this country since 9/11. The obelisk in Washington looked down on what many called an insurrection and what others felt was a patriotic march for a stolen election. The obelisk is a fantastic symbol used since our oldest times; it is as mystical as omnipresent in our world. In Paris, the obelisk in the middle of the city was detached from its home while the sibling remains in Luxor. It was Napoleon who had the giant stone brought across the Mediterranean Sea. And it was also Napoleon who used the art of painting to propagate false history: while the French citizens applauded images showing him pardoning Aegyptian insurgents, in reality, Napoleon slaughtered most of them—a true example of visual manipulation.
As storytellers, we are drawn to the concept of our realities being shaped by our perceived notions of what is true and correct. Our curiosity about an affinity for conspiracy thinking and moral panic has already led to multiple projects on that subject. While the world around us is reaching a fever pitch of who is telling the truth and who is lying, it’s our responsibility as artists to dive in. Not always to take sides, but to pay attention and reflect on what we observe around us and, in our story, to explore the downward spiral of two people we could all easily come across in our daily life. They go off the grid, narrowing any chance of coming across anything besides what they decide to see, feeding their paranoia and ultimately becoming dangerous.
But there is also an upward spiral that we tell. The side story of an employee uncovering a possible fatal cover-up in a factory accident by widening her loyal perspective and breaking with the luxury of her comfort.
Watching post-apocalyptic and dystopian movies, one would believe that a bit of dirt and squinting eyes are enough to create a dangerous man. But that would make villains out of our mechanic and our partner with poor eye-sight. In the Information Age, the human brain is overwhelmed with patterns and signs that can be detected everywhere and invites the observer to misinterpret. Using clichés of post-apocalyptic movies, we create not “play on words” but “play on images,” lending a tragicomic undertone to our story. Tragic in a way that mirrors our western culture because nothing we show in The Obelisk is pure fiction. Pizzagate, for example—the entire belief construct could seem ridiculous for some, but for others, as we know, it was deadly serious and ended in a standoff with the authorities. The NXVIUM Cult is also a case of absurdity to some and very real for others. Or take the armed militias: some genuinely believe they can provide security in a seemingly rotting society, while others are afraid to see an evangelical version of the Taliban.
We live in a world where misinformation, manipulation, and disregard for objectivity are entirely normal. We are living in a Venn diagram of apocalyptic what-ifs and conspiracy theories. A film combining these elements like The Obelisk is very much at home here.