Grade: C / 30%
Reclaim Your Brain devises a premise that is flawed in principle. If the degree of its flaw were subjected to a rating scale, the bar level would be absurdly high. The film is built on an implausible narrative in which the sequence of events with little to no sensible correlation is linked together.
The premise suggests that a near-death experience causes a TV station manager to rechannel his efforts from serving awful reality-shows and fake news towards an ‘intelligent television experience’. Now the obvious question here is why a near-death experience is required to make him, a considerably shrewd businessman, realize that his current programmes make for a braindead viewing? In fact, people associated with these shows usually know perfectly well that their shows aren’t meant for quality programming. Suggesting that anybody associated with reality television does not know what intelligent TV programming is unless he/she undergoes a near-death experience to realize what the audience should watch is pretty absurd. And director Hans Weingartner doesn’t bother to explain what’s meant by ‘intelligent TV programming’; from his film, the only meaning that can be postulated is that anything not associated with reality television or fake news is ‘intelligent television’.
In fact, shouldn’t this be relative and highly depended on the intelligence level, tastes and preferences of the viewer? Reclaim Your Brain suggests that ‘any misfit/weirdo/loser’ would unhesitatingly support the protagonist in promoting intelligent content on television as it’s they who are being unfairly deprived of the intelligent television programmes. In fact, the reality should be the opposite, as its people with good taste in art who may be looking our for better television content. In the earlier days of film, serials were extremely popular among audiences of lower strata, despite having no aesthetic merit. And while Reclaim Your Brain tries to put it in this way, that ‘the protagonist had to be one among the people to be able to bring a change’, the film also suggests that people will watch anything that will come on television. So, why did the protagonist bother to work with losers and bums when he could’ve brought a quicker change by collaborating with creative/intelligent people from within the industry itself? In a scene, the protagonist explains that reality shows gained popularity gradually due to habit and faced dismal ratings when introduced initially, so the same could’ve happened with the newer intelligent TV programmes he intended to create; he could’ve simply switched over to another network where such programmes were telecast and tried increasing their popularity with his business acumen (a la Harvey Weinstein).
Instead, the protagonist opts for a barely plausible subterfuge that would’ve succeeded as a propaganda only in one of the absurd universes created by Stanley Kubrick (like the one in ‘A Clockwork Orange’). Here, in the realistic world depicted by Hans, it doesn’t. It is an embarrassment to everybody associated with it, especially Hans, whose previous work ‘The Edukators’ was a Palme d’Or nominee. It surprises me Reclaim Your Brain found takers. It needs major rewrites even to work for television.
I have to admit the premise seems intriguing on paper or rather the back cover of a DVD at least. The opening sequence, shot in a berserk style with the camera rapidly catching up with the film’s protagonist Rainer Kuhhirt (Moritz Bleibtreu), a young hot-shot who’s driving recklessly at breakneck speed along German roads listening to Downset’s ‘Anger’ (which screams out ‘Anger, let’s turn it into the opposition!’ like is a musical motif, although its never referred to thereafter), is indeed an impressive start, especially the part when the camera cuts to the female character Pegah (Elsa Sophie Gambard) waking up with a start elsewhere the instant Rainer’s car crashes with another. But this scene would’ve worked better had it been Pegah’s dream, as she’s the character who’s disturbed and planning to take her revenge on Rainer for reporting a fake news report about her grandfather on his channel Report 24, leading to the old man’s suicide.
Rainer, except for his drug addiction, seems like a sane, not-too-arrogant man who’s pretty happy with his success. This is the film’s first major problem: there isn’t much to suggest that Rainer was unhappy with the content he was promoting, and so his near-death hallucination, a bizarre sequence where television personalities decide his fate, that comes when Pegah rams her car into his lacks believability. Rather than having scenes where Rainer gradually gets to know about Pegah’s past, blames himself for approving content without realizing its consequences on others, and then eventually tries to change the face of television, the film credits only the near-death experience to a drastic and immediate change in his personality and thinking. A near-death experience may trigger a changing attitude, but the change itself should only be gradual. So, when Rainer “You can’t hate me more than I hate myself” the moment he gets out of coma and goes to the Pegah’s room, it feels too sudden and unrealistic. There should’ve been more scenes of the two getting to know each other before giving Rainer such a dialogue.
Rainer’s network, which has produced shows like ‘Make Your Super Baby’, where the male contestant with the healthiest sperm gets to impregnate the lucky lady, and has announced to make ‘Titanic’, which has a similar concept of rich vs poor as in the film except for reality television, now brings ‘Things You Should Know’, an educational programme where controversial topics of importance are brought to light. The funny part is that all through the pre-production phase, noone is shown to question or even show surprise towards Rainer’s altered attitude. Everyone accepts his new idea without hesitation, so the movie does in a way show that Rainer could’ve gotten support from these people themselves in taking forward his new direction. Also, it seems stupid of him to work out such a concept for a channel popular for brainless reality shows; I guess the man never heard of switching over to a different network.
When the programme gets dismal ratings in its pilot episode and is axed by colleague Miwald (Gregor Bloeb), Rainer quits after bad-mouthing the network instead of figuring out another intelligent concept that could strike a chord with audiences. He leaves his girl-friend, catches up with Pegah and then conspires with her, Phillip (Milan Peschel), a security guard at a TV station, and five to six misfits to rig the television ratings in secrecy so intellectually stimulating programmes are shown to be in demand, at least in the ratings if not actually. Hans’ implication lacks credibility because he chooses to neglect all other factors which influence taste and preferences of people. A person who dislikes certain kinds of films will choose not to watch them unless one of the films strikes a personal chord with him/her, but individual tastes is something Hans gives no importance to, rather choosing to categorize people into ‘reality show lovers’ or ‘intelligent show lovers’. He implies what’s running on TV doesn’t matter so long as its repeated constantly, which destroys the original purpose of changing audience’s mindset so they choose to watch one over the other. Hence, if the network began playing reality shows again, audiences will blindly switch over. Way to create loyal users… NOT! In a climactic scene, Rainer labels Miwald a ‘fascist’ for dictating the taste of viewers; however his own movement deprives the audience of any freedom of choice and is equally fascist. It is assumed viewers are cattle and will follow anything that’s played more for them.
Anand Gandhi, an Indian filmmaker used a great strategy to promote his cerebral masterpiece ‘Ship Of Theseus’ in his home country. Taking the help of producer-director Kiran Rao, wife of Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, he campaigned his film on Facebook in an innovative manner. Kiran Rao was awestruck by his film after catching it at a film-festival, and she decided to help in promoting the film along-with Anand. Facebook users were asked to vote for this film in case they wanted it to release in their respective cities; after a limited release in the four metropolitan cities, the film soon saw a wider release in twenty-one other cities and managed to get decent profits. Rigging the BO collections to inflate numbers or theatre occupancy rates wouldn’t lure the number of audiences that word-of-mouth and an interest in the story would. My grandma wouldn’t watch such a film even if it’s played on repeat for days together on the television. She’ll always stick to her music and dance reality shows. If these shows were cancelled due to low ratings, or rigged low ratings, she’s rather switch off her television and go to bed early.