Monday, 21 February 2011

Catfish: Strange things that happen on the internet

In Catfish, a filmmaker starts documenting his brother Nev's online relationship with a family. After an eight-year-old girl sends him a painting of one his photos, he starts talking to her mother and older sister on Facebook. The paintings keep coming in the post, along with recorded songs from the sister. Soon he starts talking to them on the phone, even starting to believe that the relationship with Megan, the older sister, could be 'something serious'. Through Facebook and emails and texts they keep contacting each other, with the whole thing seeming strangely normal. Technology has apparently brought them together but always keeping them at a distance. Nev is in New York, while his new friends live in Michigan. You can probably see where this is going. For the sake of the 'documentary' they go on a road trip to meet the family. On the way they begin to suspect that something's not right. By the time they get to Michigan the tension is cranked right up, like they're about to discover something sinister. There's a real sense of excitement as they get nearer and nearer, even dabbling in a bit of mild horror. I won't say what happens, except that, like all mysteries, the question is more interesting than the answer. These few young men seem genuinely scared of what they're getting themselves into. How much they're acting up to the camera isn't clear, but their fear and nervous excitement seems real. There's a good period in Catfish that's incredibly compelling. The truth takes the edge off it eventually, but until then it's captivating. It's the sort of thing that can only be really enjoyed the first time you see it. When it ends you'll think back to that golden half an hour when everything was fresh and mysterious, and feel a bit sad that you'll never be able to see it like that again.

It's a film filtered through technology, where everything is analysed and deduced through the internet. Google Street View gives a glimpse of places before they go there. Emails hide clues that can be worked out through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. The technology is useful but cold. Everyone is hiding behind it until they go to confront the real world. This is a story about right now, a bit scary and a bit exciting.


  1. The internet is a scary place. I like the net more than anything, met a lot of wonderful people online but I'm oh so scared to meet them in real life. Guess this would be a movie for me :p

    I get what you mean by "that golden half an hour when everything was fresh and mysterious, and feel a bit sad that you'll never be able to see it like that again". And you'll keep on feeling sad everytime you rewatch the movie. Even after putting it away for a few months or years, it'll never be the same.

  2. I agree with the film never being the same. You're right, I'll probably never watch it again with being disappointed that I know what's coming, but I found the solution just as compelling as the mystery in its own way.

  3. Bibi - Yeah, when I was watching it I was trying not to guess what was coming, as a way to try to hold on to the mystery for as long as possible. I'm not going to watch it again, but I'd like to see some similar stories.

    Ruth - It has some interesting points about how we construct internet identities that have no real relation to who we are. The extreme version isn't far from what we all do, I suppose.