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Entries in From One Second to the Next [2013] (1)

Thursday
Aug152013

From One Second to the Next (2013)

Where u @?

Note: I've embedded the entire thirty-four-minute film above. Feel free to check it out and then read my review.

Fittingly, Werner Herzog's documercial about texting and driving features a conspicuous lack of technology. Instead of going the "dramatization" route and showing actors looking up in panic from their cell phones just before impact, From One Second to the Next offers snapshots of real families ripped apart by distracted motorists. By letting his subjects' harrowing stories paint far more gruesome pictures than any slickly edited re-creation, Herzog provides an analog warning about our crisis of digital convenience.

If you're like me, you might think this film sounds like one of those sensationalist drunk-driving videos they show at pre-Prom assemblies--packed with enough stats and gaudy, blood-splattered dresses to completely drain the material of its intended impact (especially if you are either not a drinker or have no plans to attend the dance). I don't blame you, and I don't think Herzog's subjects would have, either, before tragedy rounded the corner. But in our increasingly pocket-tech-dependent world, the number of people who don't need to hear this message is shrinking by the hour.

From the mother of a young Packers fan whose nights are now dedicated to listening for gaps in her paralyzed son's ventilator; to the twenty-something guy haunted by a letter of forgiveness from the Amish family whose three kids he killed; to the sharp, world-traveling businesswoman now reduced to a speech-impaired homebody with short-term memory issues, From One Second to the Next illustrates how something as "quick and harmless" as hitting "Send" while operating an automobile can change countless lives forever.

I sense your concern. Don't worry: that last paragraph is much preachier than anything in the film. There are no heavy-handed voiceovers, no graphics of scary percentages ghosting in and out of panning highway shots. The director knows that the best way to drive his point home is to let the victims (and, in some cases, the perpetrators) speak plainly, as if they were friends whose advice you might actually take.

On balance, Herzog's movie would have been much stronger had he stripped it of film-school-pretentious sad-miming. Because his stars are real people and not actors,* we get one too many awkward inserts of reverent kneeling and close-ups of stiffly performing hands meant to re-create the moment when a speeding car snatched a loved one away. These shots feel deliberately and unnecessarily aimed at elevating a message whose importance couldn't be higher. Sad to say, I may have rolled my eyes as often as I wiped tears from them.

That minor quibble aside, From One Second to the Next is one of the best things I've seen this year. Despite the names AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon popping up in the end credits as co-sponsors, there's no sense of the film as a commercial venture. Could it be that these mega-corporations have simply teamed up to address what they see as a major public-safety concern--completely unmotivated by profit?

Maybe, but who knows?.

After all, less dead texters and pedestrians equal more viable customers. Regardless, the message worked on me. I was never much of a texter to begin with, but the movie definitely made me rethink what I think about when I get behind the wheel of my car. It also made me want to hug my son and wife--a lot. Propaganda or not, that's powerful filmmaking.

*Shut it, thespians: you know what I mean.