Why Upstream Color is the best film about ecology that you’ll see

I bet when you ask a person on the street what they first think of when someone mentions ecology they will tell you something like wildlifeenvironment, or hippies.  While accurate, the world of ecology is so much more complicated and interesting!  Perhaps it’s a recency effect (okay, okay) but if I were to nominate one movie that best represents ecology it would be Upstream Color.

The new movie by the director of Primer – which, if you haven’t seen it, you better go watch it directly after you read this post – Upstream Color is visually, aurally, and in terms of story an absolutely gorgeous movie.  Science fiction, it tells the story of the life cycle of a worm, from infection of its human host to transferral to a new porcine host to release into orchids from where it will be harvested to infect a new human host, whose excretions are able to induce a psychic linking between beings.

Not only does it have a perfectly-illustrated lifecycle, it shows the effect of it all on other who are caught up in its environment: the Thief that uses it to rob people, the Sampler that takes advantage of it to sample the lives of strangers as inspiration for his music, the infected who are now linked.

The majority of the story is two infected humans who meet and fall in love, only to find that their lives become more intertwined than they expected; soon they are confusing their memories and feelings, and are pushed around by the emotions and circumstances of the pigs that had in turn been infected by their worms.  This illustration of how the broader environment beyond their control (the “upstream color”, as it were) really reinforces the “everything is connected” ethos in a visceral way.

Go watch it.

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