Paranoia: 1.0 is one of those largely incomprehensible, heavy on the atmospherics, movies that I generally have little patience for. But while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I liked this movie, for whatever reason I was a little more tolerant of its denseness and artsiness, and was able to stay somewhat interested in the first half or so, and a bit more interested in the second half.
It is set in some ambiguous, unreal world. I want to say futuristic, but really it’s more like a parallel world that’s technologically ahead of ours in some respects and behind in others. It’s a highly computerized world, with fancy virtual reality devices, and robots, and nanotechnology used inside people, but in other respects—for instance people communicating by rotary phone—it has more of a mid-twentieth century feel to it.
The protagonist is some kind of computer guy who works out of his home. His employer keeps showing up on his video screen insisting he turn in the “code” he’s working on, but for reasons that are never explained—other than just that he’s distracted by the other bizarre goings-on—he doesn’t.
He lives in an Eraserhead sort of neighborhood and apartment building. It’s bleak and spooky and dark. He rarely goes outside except to walk to some sort of convenience store that seems to be within a block or so, and it’s seemingly always night time and there’s no traffic or other activity.
There are long stretches without much dialogue, and weird-angled camera shots and such to establish the mood.
The other people in the building that he has some degree of familiarity with are typically eccentric or creepy or both. It’s not clear which of them are bad guys, which are crazy, which can be believed when they tell him something, etc.
Partly because he keeps receiving parcels that turn out to be empty boxes—which are somehow inside his locked apartment—he comes to feel like he, and possibly other people in the building, are being harassed or set up or victimized in some way. He’s concerned about viruses, but it’s ambiguous if his computer equipment has been somehow compromised by a computer virus, he’s physically ill himself due to the other kind of virus, something’s wrong inside him due to some kind of nanotechnology robots introduced into his system, some or all of this is taking place in a virtual reality world, or he’s just plain crazy.
Eventually there’s sort of a resolution, but the reviews I read after seeing the movie and before writing this seemed to treat it as a lot more unambiguous of an “ah ha” moment that explained what had been going on all along than how I took it. I thought it left a lot open to interpretation, and that what they’re seeing as the “real” ending is just a vague suggestion of what might be going on, but also might be one or another character’s imaginings or whatever. Maybe it just went over my head, but I didn’t see the ending as providing straightforward answers.
And even if it does, I don’t think it ties up all the loose ends. I’m pretty sure a fair amount of the movie still is mysterious, or just incoherent.
I’d probably get more out of Paranoia: 1.0 if I watched it again (I’m not going to) or if I could talk about it with others who watched it and maybe caught stuff I didn’t. I experienced it as intentionally grim and confusing, but somehow didn’t dislike it as much as most movies I would describe that way.
The atmospherics worked on me at some level. I went out for a nighttime walk shortly after watching it, and the creep factor stayed with me. I was noticeably more alert to the sound of my own footsteps, a distant dog bark, etc.