Various Artists – Electric Dreams

For the final release in this set I’m going to break the trend slightly and concentrate more on the movie than its soundtrack. Partly this is because I’ve not actually heard the soundtrack to this one, but partly it’s also because the music is entirely key to the movie itself, which I think is quite a good justification.

Until very recently, to my immense shame, I’d never seen the film Electric Dreams before. Then I was watching something else on a well-known online video sharing website and noticed that the film was there to watch in its entirety.

Here’s the thing: the film is absolutely lousy. Totally awful, in almost every conceivable way. But for someone who enjoys the kinds of music that I do, it’s essential viewing. And since you’re reading this, I think it’s fair to say that this applies to you too.

With Richard Branson as its executive producer and Giorgio Moroder coordinating the music, so many of the ingredients were right. In fairness actually, one of its main failings was that it was made in 1984. Oh yes, and the general absurdity of the plot. Perhaps, as with all the best music films, the important thing is the music, and not any of the typical cinematic aspects. But there’s also a large element of praise for technology, and some fun to be had with that too. Throw in a few clumsy hints at gay rights, and you have a fun, if horrifically dated film.

Let me give you my interpretation of what happened in the movie. I wasn’t entirely sure, but I think it was meant to be a comedy. Anyway, this is what happens…

At the start of the film, our protagonist Miles Harding, later thanks to a typo forever dubbed Moles by his computer, finds himself leaving Los Angeles surrounded by technology. He checks into his flight on a computerised check-in system (how absurd!) and sits down to wait for his flight as, around him, children play with computers and fatties try to fool themselves that they’re not fat using computerised devices.

Turning up to work in San Francisco the next day, Miles, strangely a total geek but somebody who has never owned a computer before, is scolded for his lateness, so he goes into a computer shop to try and buy an iPhone some kind of personal organiser device. They have sold out already, so he’s persuaded to buy a full-sized computer instead. Proper geeks will find this shop rather charming, filled not just with the anonymous PCs that we see today, but also with early Apples, and a surprising amount of Acorn equipment (the BBC microcomputers of yesteryear). Either revealing the British influence on this transatlantic co-production or harking back to a day when Britain was still a viable technological power, this makes for a rather sweet moment thirty years later.

Miles leaves with a Pinecone computer, and quickly wires his entire house into it. Living in the famously earthquake-prone city, his pet project is trying to design a brick which will hold together in a seismic event, rather than split apart. Of course, any engineer should have known even then that this is entirely the wrong strategy, but then, the hero of this film is an architect, so he’s allowed to be a little batty. He’s also allowed to live on his own in what must be a phenomenally expensive apartment, with beautiful cellists for his neighbours. And apparently old people too, who are an extremely rare site in modern day SF.

Anyway, for reasons which weren’t entirely obvious to me, he decides to hack into his work computer network; the computer overloads with data; he tries to stop it by pouring champagne on the computer, and this somehow gives the machine a life of its own and enables it to think by itself.

The rest of the film is pretty much incidental after this build-up, and so largely it goes along these lines: girl meets computer but thinks it’s actually boy; girl falls in love with boy; computer falls in love with girl; computer and boy fight over girl; computer sacrifices itself in the name of love. All pretty pedestrian stuff.

While all of this is going on, you get the monumental score by Giorgio Moroder. Having only just created his interesting version of Metropolis a year or two earlier, it could have all gone horribly wrong, but this time he managed to hold it together.

The score has some great moments, such as the cello piece The Duel. The soundtrack album also brings you hits and exclusive tracks from the likes of Jeff LynneCulture Club, and Heaven 17.

The one truly beautiful moment in the film is at the end, when the couple leave San Francisco in typically heavy rain (although this has symbolically and miraculously stopped by the time they reach the Golden Gate Bridge) and Edgar hacks into the radio to play them the wonderful Together in Electric Dreams, apparently self-composed, but of course in reality written and performed by Moroder with Phil Oakey out of The Human League.

2 thoughts on “Various Artists – Electric Dreams

  1. Pingback: Beginner’s guide to The Human League | Music for stowaways

  2. Pingback: Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder – Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder | Music for stowaways

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