Teeps n the Hood

Electric Dreams: The Hood Maker (Julian Jarrold, 2017)

Ok, what I’m not going to do is laboriously compare these Channel 4 PKD Estate sanctioned adaptations to the originals, partly because the f-word is not necessarily useful to criticism and partly because the collected stories are currently behind a pile of boxes. And it’s also worth noting that, frankly, some of the short stories are pretty ropey. See, say, “Paycheck”, which the film might just about improve on. So I’m ignoring the fact that this version of “The Hood Maker” shifts emphases, instead focusing on a general sense of the PhilDickian.

The jizz of Dick, to borrow a term from birding.

Oh, and spoilers.

The set up is a PhilDickian antiutopia— the authorities are going to use telepaths (“teeps”) to seek out revolutionaries and so forth, in an echo of our own infringing privacy for our own good governments. Unfortunately, someone has made a hood that can keep thoughts private — they must be hiding something. Meanwhile, the teeps are being treated like shit and are on the verge of revolution. The internet seems to have disappeared (or never happened); police interviews are recorded on reel to reel tape recorders and our chief protagonist has a manual typewriter.

Data seems to be analog only. There is no interconnectivity save telepathy.

So Ross (Richard Madden, looking a tad like Rufus Sewell in Dark City) is given a teep, Honor (Holliday Grainger) to assist in his enquiries in tracking down the hood maker and eliminating him. She isn’t entirely sure she can trust him and her fellow teeps certainly don’t, but she has (rather conveniently) agreed not to read him. She has also tried the hood on, gaining what appears to be a blissful instant of silence from all the voices in other people’s heads. And he presumably can’t trust her, because she could read his thoughts.

But because people are stupid, they end up in bed together.

I was beginning to worry that things were too straightforward; at this point there is some complexity. The hood was develop so that politicians could be free of having their thoughts read, so the problem is the democratising of resistance to anti privacy moves. And Ross isn’t quite what he seems, offering another version of the haves and have nots when it comes to whose minds can be read. We are clued into this by a very clumsy flashback.

There is a sense of a wider world and a number of impulses and conspiracies at work in it, but scriptwriter Matthew Graham has clearly decided not to sketch that in with any detail. I didn’t pick up the sense of how they got there from here. The teeps, and the cops, are multiracial, although the majority of the central ones are white.

There was a pleasing detail in the almost final shot of what was an intriguingly open ending: the camera pans past a copy of René Magritte’s The Lovers II, in which a couple with cloths over their heads kiss. It seems to be a symbol for Ross and Honor. And it’s almost as if someone knew they were coming.

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