Perpetual Peace
Microcinema // Unrated // $30 // April 26, 2011
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted May 4, 2011
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Perpetual Peace:
It is important that I get a few things straight with you right now. (Does this seem like a peaceful approach, or an aggressive approach?) But first, I'd like to ask you what exactly is it do you think peace is? OK, glad to have that out of the way. So, again, for my deal. I am more or less a pacifist. I don't think much comes from fighting other than the desire to continue fighting, or to completely vanquish the enemy, i.e. to kill the enemy. I do, however, acknowledge some realities of the human animal, and realities that have been fostered over millennia of civilization. To wit: anger is the easy path. If you can follow my train of thought, you might understand what Perpetual Peace is all about.

What one can't argue is that this is an extremely stylish release, starting with its digipak presentation - that of a plastic tray in which to house the DVD proper, glued into a hardboard folder of beautiful blue. The images contained therein would nominally be considered fullframe, of a 1.33:1 ratio, but they are presented within a circular frame. What they deliver are a series of brief interviews with philosophers, sociologists, and other professionals and political theorists discussing, dissecting, and attempting to explain Immanuel Kant's concept of perpetual peace, vis--vis current and historical political affairs.

Conceits are employed, such as having interviewees speak to circle-left, or showing them looking thoughtful while their thoughts are presented in voiceover. Some of what they say is scary, such as the notion of powerful nation states being unable to control themselves and unable to govern actors within the private sector. Much of what they say is delivered with foreign accents either thick enough to need subtitles, or at least thick enough as to seem pretentious. It's been a problem with thinkers and the way they might connect with Joe Six-pack, and I know my bringing it up is in itself an act of willful ignorance.

And so I say again, I truly believe a pursuit of peace is important, and with the recent execution of Osama Bin Laden and the subsequent furor of American nationalism attendant, peace is a good thing to look for. Who among us won't consider the fact that icing Osama might simply fuel the fires of Al Qaeda? But, of some importance as well, who among DVD Talk readers will be willing to engage a DVD as shamelessly obtuse as this? Regarding its presentation, I must question exactly who is the target audience for this DVD, and my conclusion is that it might be intended for students of graduate school.

Lacking any form of a 'play all' option, and containing navigation which defaults to the least-favorable option for seamless throughput, this 54-minute DVD makes you work for every minute of information. It is not just preaching to the choir in its arch mien, it seems to be preaching to the preacher only. What I'm trying to say is if the intent is to start a discussion of how to achieve a lasting peace among normal people, this is not the way to do it. If the intent is to create a nifty way to inspire philosophy students to craft lengthy term papers arguing about the very nature of peace, the DVD is an interesting experiment.

I love the idea of peace, and I do believe that our capacity for intellectual inquiry wouldn't have developed to its current level absent the ability to achieve some facsimile of peace, but such an endeavor logically will require tremendous effort regardless of Kant's writings. I'm glad people are actively thinking about such things. I hope they can infiltrate government to help us out a bit. Per the DVD's packaging, the Perpetual Peace Project seeks to promote contemporary discourse with leading theorists and practitioners, without planning where these conversations lead. If you are one of those theorists, you might get a kick out of this DVD, if not, I would approach this DVD, which is among other things an aggressively artful, nearly impenetrable testament to the notion of design over function, with extreme caution.


Presented in fullframe 1.33:1 ratio, further constricted by a circular framing device, this DVD looks maddeningly just OK. Images are mostly sharp, with a few exceptions, but often too sharp, leading to aliasing and wavering of straight lines. Colors are natural and not too vibrant.

Digital Audio has little to work with save interview dialog. It is clear and defect free, though accents are often near-impenetrable.

No extras are presented except for a Text-based Discussion of Perpetual Peace Project objectives. Menu navigation is counter-intuitive, packaging is stylish digipak-style, and that's about it.

Final Thoughts:
This obtuse exercise in style-over function will do little to foment any discussion of peace among the masses. It seems almost willfully off-putting, from poor menu navigation through to dry, intellectual discussions of Kant's theory of perpetual peace, there's little to grab onto for anyone who isn't already a German philosopher or at least a philosophy student. The message is valid and important, but for your average DVD consumer, the delivery is awful. Skip It.

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