May 17, 2022


Born to play

Review: Michel van der Aa’s ‘Upload’ Asks Old Questions With New Technology

That minute delivers a wash of individual quiet and humanity immediately after 80 minutes of brisk drama. “Upload” has factors of the darkly speculative series “Black Mirror” and the comparatively hopeful “Years and Several years,” but its preoccupations are as timeless as they are the very best style fiction.

Not that “uploading” is totally fictional. It is our future and current: an currently said ambition to upload consciousness to a decentralized blockchain, prefigured by the traces of ourselves we now deposit throughout the net — our photos and internal views bit by bit constructing what the clinic of “Upload” (shot at the modernist Zonnestraal sanitarium in the Netherlands) would call a Intellect File for our electronic afterlife.

How that file is designed is thorough in filmed sequences starring Ashley Zukerman (“Succession”) as a stereotypical Silicon Valley type, hubristically enthusiastic and uninterested in waiting around for govt regulation, and Katja Herbers (“Evil”), as an empathetic psychiatrist who also has a streak of overconfidence. The technologies is readily available only to a privileged couple of, the kind of people who would fly to area recreationally. Or, below, acquire eternal everyday living at the value of loss of life — to prevent the complications, the two moral and ecological, of many uploads.

For these scenes, van der Aa writes less of an opera score and more of a soundtrack, uneasy yet energized, with jittery strings, chaotic percussion and electronics that warp into crackling white noise — all performed, with propulsive momentum, by Ensemble Musikfabrik, less than Otto Tausk’s fully commited and commanding baton. Van der Aa’s songs can take on a distinct design and style, while, for scenes showcasing the work’s two singing roles: the unnamed father and daughter.

We meet them — the baritone Roderick Williams, sensitive and ever sympathetic, and the soprano Julia Bullock, silvery at the top rated of her assortment, similarly at simplicity in pop directness and lush lyricism — following he has been uploaded, with no her expertise. Their interactions have the in a natural way rhythmic vocal creating of Janacek or Debussy. Left by itself, she tends to be accompanied by more conventional appears, such as a piano or strings, while the father’s musical vocabulary is firmly, irreversibly digital.