The Model Couple (1977)

Finishing the Klein box. Apparently not only was this his first fiction film since Mr Freedom nearly a decade earlier (he’d made documentaries in between), it’s the last fiction film he’s made (having only made documentaries since as well)… This was apparently originally intended as part of a much bigger film that he couldn’t get funding for, although I suppose this scaled-down venture still let him make at least some of the points he wanted to make. This one revolves around a proto-reality TV social experiment, whereby an “average” young middle-class couple move into a “model apartment”, to be prodded, poked and measured for the benefit of the government’s Ministry of the Future, who are trying to plan cities of the future and so need a “model couple” to be part of the fun while their daily activities are broadcast to a national audience and dissected by a panel of pundits. So far, so Big Brother… but, as we gradually find out, there’s a faintly ominous undercurrent to all the tests and experiments; as the artificial (?) stress of the situation starts to tell on our “average” couple (who are warned at one point by the two “psychosociologists” overseeing them that they’ve been getting less “average” as the process goes on), it also starts to tell on the people running things, and we learn that, at least in part, what the Ministry of the Future is trying to determine is just how much bullshit people will take and still consider themselves happy, e.g. just how small a space will they inhabit without complaining. It’s a problematic experiment in many ways, not least when the “test animals” start to play up. In a way it’s all about as subtle as Mr Freedom, although executed in a far less aggressive way, making for a more quietly amusing watch; and it’s nice to know that this time at least Klein’s lead performers all went on to have actual careers in a way that the stars of his other two films didn’t…

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