Since humans had the capacity to stare at the heavens in wonder, they also began to speculate whether it might collapse on their newly-evolved heads. Many folk traditions speak of a falling sky. These speak of mythical figures who either fear this fall, or who threaten to engineer such a catastrophe. The lark, for instance, was singled out by the “Remarkable Story of Chicken Little: An Occurrence of Everyday Life,” in the [New York] Gazette of the Union and The Golden Rule (1848), for its magic powers to soar up to the heavens and unfasten the sky causing it to fall. Modern version of this archetypal tale emerge with Henny Penny in the UK, and Chicken Little in the US. “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” cry these earth-bound avians. And since this cry, we have associated such panicked exclamations with both a form of crying wolf, and a somewhat sublimated dread that on this occasion, the apocalyptic news turns out to be true. A falling sky speaks to our ever-present eschatological sensibility. It both simply and poetically expresses a sense of an ending, hanging – quite literally – over our heads. (Each star at night, a potential Sword of Damocles.)
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Bob Dylan, for instance, wrote “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall” – a song composed of the first lines of dozens of other songs, that may not get written because of impending nuclear war. Arthur C. Clarke (1953) wrote a short story called “The Nine Billion Names of God,” about a super-computer that crunches all the possible monikers for the one true deity, and – when successful – snuffs out the constellations above. Today, with impetuous world leaders actively contributing to instability on a potentially global scale, the sky seems to be attached to the firmament by only a few threads. Are the journalists and experts reporting on climate change, pollution, nuclear war, terrorism, giant meteors, and so on, the new Henny Pennys and Chicken Littles, over-reacting to a controllable situation? Or are they barnyard prophets to which we should finally pay heed?
This short film weaves together found footage relating to the theme of atmospheric collapse – both literal and metaphoric – to provide an evocative and thought-provoking snapshot of the affective climate of contemporary post-millennial tension.