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Still from short film "Noah"
Still from short film "Noah"Courtesy of the filmmakers

Jason Reitman: what I learned from the WWW

‘If I had access to the kind of pornography kids do these days I would have never done any homework’

Jason Reitman's tale of technological malaise, Men, Women & Children, is a generation-spanning survey of how we interact, sext and cheat in our relationships. We're celebrating his digital spectacle through in-depth interviews with cast members Ansel Elgort and Judy Greer, a walkthrough of three melancholic melodies from the soundtrack from Bibio, and an exploration of how cinema is slowly reverting to silence on screen.

Jason Reitman set out to create a movie about relationships in 2014, which naturally included the internet. As a result, everyone thinks it's an internet movie. While there are elements on the world wide web woven seamlessly through the narrative, it's really a reflection of who we are and how we communicate with each other. It's a vision of pure beauty. There's no message or forgone conclusion (although some may tell you differently), but once again the director behind such hits as Juno and Thank You for Smoking gets away with telling us how we interact without lecturing or judging. In his own words, Reitman offers five internet truths he came away with. Scrap the quick quotes desk calendar, these are your new nuggets of post-internet wisdom.


"It’s funny, I’m very into technology but I’m not into social media. I’m on Twitter but I’m not on Facebook and I’m not on Instagram. I don’t get that same joy from them but I love technology and I’m excited to get the new iPhone. I am on Twitter and I promote my film that way. It’s a useful tool, but there is something inherently phony about it, right? That I would have this relationship with 100,000 people I don’t know and that somehow what I’m sharing is authentically me and what they would be sharing back is authentically them. It’s something I experimented more with when I was promoting Up in the Air (2009), and I did a lot of it. I was tweeting a lot and responded to stuff. It was interesting but it left me unfulfilled and vulnerable in a way, because of this inauthentic relationship."


"I do think that if I had access to the kind of pornography kids do these days when I was 13 or 14 years old – I mean forget about it, I would never have done any homework. Sincerely. I think it would have been a problem. That said, they only know that life and it doesn’t seem to bother them. Take the young actors in this film – I’m 15 to 20 years older than them, but I might as well be 100 years old to them, because the life they grew up within does not resemble my childhood at all. I look at Juno (2007) which I made in 2006 – that was eight years ago…  When I look at the world I was trying to portray, it has no resemblance to the world I am portraying in this film. The Juno world is wood walls and lockers – it’s earthy. When I started scouting schools for this film, I visited a school in Texas that had no lockers. It had no lockers because there were no books. It blew my mind and I thought, 'Something feels very different.' We walked up to a classroom and everyone had iPads and iPhones and tablets out, and some kids had headphones in. I asked the administrator who was walking me around, 'What are they listening to?', thinking this was some educational thing. 'Oh it’s probably, erm, music.' I said, 'Really, that's okay?' And she was like, 'Well, it really depends on the teacher.'"


"Certainly there is a pre-internet/post-internet value that we're dealing with and that’s why there was a scene about 9/11 in the film, because it is just a distinctive moment. There is pre-9/11 and post-9/11, and they don't resemble each other. I will have to explain what the world was like before 9/11 to my daughter, and I will have to explain what the world was like before the internet to my daughter. (Whether it's) good or bad is an impossible question to answer, and an unnecessary one, because the internet at the end of the day is simply a reflection of us, it’s a reflection of the good and bad in us – of our curiosity and our desire.


The internet has done beautiful things – it led to the Arab Spring. Most recently in the States – this city of Ferguson, Missouri – we’re discussing corruption within the police department and racism in a much more honest way because of this shared information. At the same time, you've got a generation of young people who have access to strangers and stranger communities that they are favouring over their own communities and the people that are in their life. That presents problems and, as a father, I think about that a lot."


"I'll be very honest; I really never saw this as an internet movie. One of the big educations to me has been finishing the movie and having to do interviews and realising that people see this as an internet movie. I had to become versed in talking about the internet very quickly. I wanted to make a movie about relationships in 2014 – I want to know what it's like to be married, divorced, to be a parent, to be a child, to be falling in love in high school, and you can only discuss that in 2014 by discussing our virtual relationships as well. That's what interested me but at the end of the day, what's important to me is human intimacy and the desire to connect and why we keep secrets. These are the things that interest me – actual online communities interest me very little – for me that's a prop, that's a location. The internet is just a location, just as Juno is not a movie about pregnancy. Pregnancy is a location to discuss the concept of when we grow up."

Men, Women & Children is out in cinemas on December 5