Screenlife is here to stay, thanks to Timur Bekmambetov. A Kazakh-Russian director and producer, Bekmambetov is responsible for what’s likely the most outstanding formal innovation in filmmaking in decades. Quite simply: he’s uncovered and propagandized a new way to present motion pictures—in which the viewer sees everything entirely through in-world (and thus, real-world) screens. Layers of artifice are stripped, the production design becomes 2D, and the mise-en-scene becomes redesigned. It’s a more advanced form of the same screen recording technology used by Twitch content creators and video game streamers reimagined as a new media for feature filmmaking. It’s one of the highlights of the digital revolution.
Beginning with Unfriended (2014, directed by the great Georgian filmmaker Levan Gabriadze, whose animated Rezo, about his puppeteer father, is one of my all-time favorites), as an executive producer and the founder of the Bazelevs production company, he has birthed every major screenlife film in some form or another. Unfriended, Searching (2018), Unfriended: Dark Web (2018), and Profile (2018), all bear his signature either as director, writer, producer, or a combination of the above. So does the Romeo and Juliet adaptation and the first non-suspense driven screenlife film R#J (2021) and the Russian language #Blue_Whale (2021), neither of which I’ve yet been able to catch. A few screenlife pictures pre-date 2014’s Unfriended and didn’t involve the Slavic director, so he didn’t “invent” the form. But he’s its undisputed biggest champion. If it’s a feature-length screenlife, Bekmambetov and Bazelevs are likely involved.
Read more at the Boston Hassle.