One striking aspect of Taking Liberties was the art direction. There’s a lot of computer generated imagery, which has been beautifully designed by Nexus Productions. Much of it is inspired by 1930s propaganda imagery and the letterpress aesthetic of printing and pampleteering (a visual style I’ve been toying with on this blog too, to much derision).
The Nexus animations are very effective at conveying the sense of oppression and fascism that the film-makers want to hint at. As an added bonus, it is also a very effective means of covering vast chunks of screen-time. Finding the right film footage to get your point across is often very difficult and always costly. Even stock footage from the BBC and similar organisations is incredibly expensive. For a film-maker working to a tight budget, animation can be a very useful method of getting your point across.
A good example of this is the short film What Barry Says by Knife Party, which is similar in style to the Taking Liberties animations… both in visual style, and in the manner in which they ‘illustrate’ what is essentially a political essay, ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’.
Uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan was struck by the aesthetics of What Barry Says too:
It contains Chomsky-esque platitudes about a new American fascism blah blah blah. 9/11 is a response to American imperialism; North Korea is a victim, etc. But its use of graphics and editing is extremely skilled propaganda: Nazi-like in its concern with aesthetics. Somehow I feel the irony was lost on it creators.
I totally disagree. Andrew acknowledges that the film-makers are seeking to establish a conceptual link between the facist regimes of the past, and the US Government under President George W Bush. It is entirely appropriate that they choose an aesthetic that is reminiscent of fascist designs. The self-awareness is definitely true in the case of Taking Liberties: When the messages turns from what negative things have happened, to what positive things could be done in response, the design becomes flourescent and modern instead.