Special Presentations | 1983 | 106 minutes

Stranger Says:

This science-fiction flick is Natalie Wood’s last film. It was mostly shot in 1981, and was released in 1983. It’s also the film that explains why Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUID) are illegal in the 1995 film Strange Days. This device, which makes its first appearance in Brainstorm (but instead of recording personal experiences onto a mini-disc, it records them onto a thick reel of tape), stores not only experiences but emotional states. The scientists who made the device soon realize that human-to-human virtual reality is not pure, but mixed with how the recorded subject feels about an experience. This and other aspects of the technology cause serious ethical problems. The scientists rebel against their own machine. Christopher Walken plays one of the scientists. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

SIFF Says:

Scientists Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) and Lillian Reynolds (Louise Fletcher) lead a research team that has been working on Triad, a brain/computer interface that can record a person’s experiences onto videotape. But now they’ve added “higher brain functions” to the device and have discovered something truly remarkable: They are suddenly able to experience the emotions and sensations on those tapes. Ethical concerns arise immediately—Michael uses the device to get closer to his soon-to-be-ex-wife Karen (Natalie Wood in her final film), who also works on Triad; another records himself having sex and passes the tape onto his colleagues—but none more so than a sudden interest from the government, who wishes to use the project for military purposes. As the government’s true plans come into focus, the scientists stop at nothing to make sure Triad doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The second and final film directed by visionary effects artist Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Brainstorm is a mind-bending science fiction parable. In a post-screening discussion, panelists will utilize their experiences in film, storytelling, and science to dissect how new technologies are affecting society today, delving into the positive (new technologies offer innovative ways to tell stories), the negative (technology’s effect on social interactions and mental health), and everything in between.

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Film Credits
Douglas Trumbull
Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson
SIFF 2017