At your inconvenience

Film(?) At some point in the future, someone studying film will be given an essay title. 'An Inconvenient Truth is not a film. Discuss.' They'll delve into the reviews of the 'text' and see that Empire Magazine gave it five stars and that Mark Kermode essentially refused to present any criticism other than he thought Gore was a bit boring, because to him it is just another example of works, such as The Queen and Zidane being projected in an auditorium when their natural home is elsewhere. The student will sigh, look at the open document in Word and wonder why he'd signed up for the course and hadn't just studied theatre instead. But their opening paragraph (before being rewritten in academic-speak) might look something like: 'The question would seem to be one of intent. If a work is created with the intent of being watched in public, in the dark with the lights out rather than through a box in the corner of the room in private from a couch then that seems like a fairly good benchmark.'

Davis Guggenheim's work is not uncinematic. It opens with some shots of our fragile Earth suggestive of Godfrey Reggio's work (Koyaanisqatsi), with a voice over from 'star' Al Gore in which he talks about his message and why he has chosen the form of a slideshow in order to make his argument. There is a narrative - can this 'hero' figure successfully persuade his audience both within the frame and in the auditorium that global warming is a greater threat to humanity than even terrorism and that unless something happens all will be lost. Whether the narrative has a happy ending depends on whether the viewer is persuaded to take the few steps outlined to clean up their lives and the environment. There are also flashbacks to the key incidents in Gore's life that led him to this crusade that took him into politics and into the White House and may yet see him return again. An antagonist might even be seen in the Bush Administration and those who seek to cloud the issue for their own financial ends.

It is a very persuasive argument. For a man who was once a figure of fun for allegedly saying that he created the internet and was criticized by some democrats for being too wooden to win an election outright, Gore has a natural charisma and bubbling under the surface he seems to be aware of some of his ludicrousness. He certainly has comic timing and even though he explains during one of the flashes away from the slide show that he's given versions of the talk over a thousand times in countless states and countries, there is a still a freshness to his words, a seeming improvisation. The overall effect is somewhere between an extended weather report and the Christmas Lectures, with simple graphs, diagrams and his words educating us to not simply on an upcoming catastrophe, but one which has already begun. Simply if a spectator doesn't gasp three or four times at such simple devices as before and after pictures, then they must not care or be paying attention.

The only criticism might be that some of the flashbacks seem to have been included as a way of breaking up the lecture when Gore's performance and the information being conveyed is mesmerising enough to keep the interest of the viewer. In some cases, it appears that the filmmakers want to both present the argument but also create a portrait of the man and sometimes this muddies the former and makes the latter too insubstantial to the extent that they feel like those Party Political Broadcasts in which a politician returns to their home town to show that they're really human too - spot the moment when Gore points out where he once crashed his car. In general however, these are used to extrapolate out the statistics into the 'real world' or to metaphorically demonstrate what the world should be doing. For me, the film had a happy ending, because I'll never keep my television on standby again.

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