If you haven’t watched the three-part Adam Curtis documentary series called ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’, you have until Monday 13 June on the BBC iPlayer.
Like most people currently raving about it online, it took me by surprise.
The Beeb have given Curtis free reign to make the most wide-ranging and wilfully weird documentary about modern ideologies and their origins you’re ever likely to see.
It’s as aesthetically striking as it is thought-provoking, clashing grainy footage of the first computer technicians against doe-eyed mammals one minute, before veering off into some other loosely-related realm the next.
The soundtrack is also inspired, including Clint Mansell’s foreboding theme from Moon…
The last episode tells the story of Bill Hamilton, the brilliant scientist who travelled to the Congo amidst a brutal civil war to collect chimpanzee faeces in the misguided belief that he could prove that US workers had accidentally created the HIV virus during vaccine testing decades earlier. He died after contracting malaria and refusing to take medication for it.
In the same programme he weaves together ideas about free will, the “selfish gene” theory, racial stereotyping and how liberal values led to bloodshed in the Rwanda crisis.
It’s brilliantly tangential, endlessly fascinating, and if you haven’t seen it, set aside three hours and make sure you do so before Monday.
And if it’s a little pretentious, so what? At least it’s television that actually forces you to think about some of the big questions of our time, rather than whether a rustic-style kitchen is preferable to a sleek, modern alternative for a particular London terraced house.