97% (2013)

*. We’ve all seen the zombies among us, heads bent over their iPhones, buds nestled in their ears, oblivious to the world around them. Plugged in to social media they seem to live profoundly anti-social lives, not just unconnected but worlds apart from the person sitting next to them on the subway.
*. And yet we still believe, or at least some of us still believe, in the Internet as being a great bonding agent, a technology that brings us all together in virtual networks of friends or “friends.” Why, with the right app it can even pick a mate for us! Algorithms do this kind of thing better, you know.
*. It’s easy to make fun of all this, but for whatever reason a lot of us do seem to have bought into it. In 97% we have a short film that follows the quest of one “Lovely Bertje82” (his digital handle) as he is informed while on the subway that a 97% love match is within 25 meters of his present location. The hunt is on!
*. Since this is a short, less than ten minutes long, I don’t think I need to give a spoiler alert. (But in case you need one, consider yourself warned.) The upshot is that Bert is so enthralled by playing the game on his cellphone that he fails to connect with the woman sitting right in front of him. This is actually presented in a beautifully artful way, as the “Reflection Girl” (as she is billed in the credits) and Bert are shown looking at each other indirectly, as reflections in a subway window that acts as yet another screen for their romance to blossom on.
*. But alas, Reflection Girl is not The One. At least not The One picked out for Bert by the matchfinder app. So he loses her and goes off to chase yet another dream, another virtual prize.
*. This gives the film a bite in the end as we realize that Bert really is quite shallow, hunting after a girlfriend like a kid chasing cartoon monsters on Pokémon Go.
*. Well, they do say that the chase is the fun part of falling in love. The thrill of the hunt and all that. But how depressing is such programmed behaviour? Where is Bert’s agency? He’s little more than a puppet attached to satellite strings. Clearly on the subway of life we are all just passengers and tech is in the driver’s seat. So much for romantic traffic. Now I feel sentimental for The Spoons.

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