My least favourite of this week’s films, Inbox uses the metaphor of a red bag to express the ways in which web-based technology connects people.
For me, the metaphor was a little clunky and the plot kind of predictable… Beautiful girl struggles to find the right boy because they’re only interested in her appearance; shy boy finds it difficult to approach girls so has little hope of ending his loneliness. In the film, boy meets girl after each brings home a purchase in a magical red gift bag, which acts as a portal through which they can exchange objects and messages. Before long, they decide to meet up, but the boy accidentally tears the bag and breaks the spell before arrangements can be made. Happily, when he returns to the shop, he finds the girl waiting for him and a new life together beckons.
We are prompted to consider whether the film presents a utopian or dystopian account of the relationship fostered between the two main characters. Certainly, web-based technologies create a space in which people can cast aside their inhibitions and get to know one another without the distraction of physical appearance. The experience is limited, of course, and it is a natural progression to then meet in person and continue to build a relationship in ‘real life’. But for me, utopia/dystopia doesn’t really enter into it.
What stands out for me in this film is the element of chance. It seems pure serendipity that the two characters happen to visit the same shop and bring home their purchases in the red bags; much like the chance encounter between the couple in the short animation Paperman – except that in their case, the paper aeroplane that brings them together has a more benevolent, utopian air because it has been invested with a personality of its own. Perhaps this is what future technology needs in order to achieve utopian status.
On reflection, perhaps I’m being a little harsh on the red bag analogy. In fact, it may be ahead of its time. The sequence in the film where they exchange objects through the red bags makes me think of 3D printing. Already becoming commonplace, it can’t be long before there is a 3D printer in every home and the sending of material objects becomes a reality.