Film “Rupture” wins prize for best SHS master's project

Filming "Rupture" © 2024 EPFL

Filming "Rupture" © 2024 EPFL

The 30-minute science fiction film “Rupture” by students Marc Domenjoz, Matthieu Gachet, Juliette Hars, and Lucas Romano presents viewers with a not-so-distant future where technology is used to control population and human behavior.

The film was the result of their project “Un futur peu enviable ? La perte de notre libre-arbitre dans un système ultra normé” (An unenviable future? The loss of our free will in a highly standardized system), which they completed as part of the Social and Human Sciences (SHS) course “Hommes/Machines” (People/Machines), taught by Prof. Dominique Kunz Westerhoff and supervised by Aliénor Vauthey. The course combines cultural, social, and scientific approaches to explore the issues and questions raised by the hybridization of man and machine.

Pushing ideas to the extreme

Rupture follows two friends, Pierre and Paul, as they wake up in the year 2152 after a serious car crash. Due to the devastation of climate change and numerous wars that led to a new world order, humanity now consists of genetically ideal clones living densely populated biomes who are implanted with intracranial chips that regulate moods and behaviors. There is no more violence and life expectancy is 200 years.

When Pierre’s chip is deactivated by a group of outcasts, he experiences the biome as it truly is, and he decides to leave. He deactivates Paul’s chip as well, hoping they can leave together, but Paul prefers the illusion of happiness, and asks the powers in charge to reactivate his chip.

"It's this idea that the more a society is highly populated, the more the interaction between its members must obey well-defined laws to keep order," explains Matthieu. "If we want to keep a dense society stable, the more the behavior of its residents has to be standardized, which takes away a lot of freedom.”

The film explores the potential for technology to be taken to extremes and the question of the balance between order and liberty.

“The goal is to get people thinking about the technology that's being developed right now, to get them wondering just how far this technology can go,” says Juliette. “And for us engineers creating new technologies, to think about the ways that the technology we create could have an impact on society that we hadn't imagined.”

Expanding horizons

While the group enjoyed and appreciated the process of collaborating on this movie, it was also a huge undertaking to write, film, perform in, edit, and create special effects for a 30-minute movie within one semester. They also found it challenging telling their story through the lens of science fiction, which required them to show viewers a world that doesn’t exist with limited means.

Their efforts paid off, with their instructors describing the result as “the fruit of genuine artistic research in terms of photography, aesthetics, sound and editing.” The group also included a ‘making-of’ video that demonstrated the amount of time and care they put into the project.

All four members of the group are completing their masters in the School of Engineering; Lucas is studying microengineering, while Juliette, Marc, and Matthieu are all studying robotics. Juliette is also doing a minor in NeuroX. They each appreciated the opportunity the SHS course gave them to explore topics and ideas outside of their main subject matter.

“We can think about the future and the consequences of the technology we can create” adds Marc. “In this way, the SHS courses allow us to expand our horizons.”

The SHS Prize

The SHS Prize has been awarded since 2012 to master’s projects conducted by individual students or groups of students within the framework of a master’s-level course in the CDH’s SHS program.

The honor comes with a prize of CHF 1,200, following a vote by the SHS teaching committee. The prize rewards exceptionally high-quality, original projects that illustrate the contribution of social and human sciences in technical education and training. The awards ceremony will take place at the Grand Témoin on Tuesday February 27, 17:00-19:00, a key event of the “Global Issues” course offered by CDH. This year's Grand Témoin will be given by Celeste Saulo, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

This year, two additional student teams were selected as finalists for the honor by the SHS Prize committee based on their projects’ exceptional quality:

  • Will Europe’s sustainable future survive the Russo-Ukrainian war? A case study of Germany

HUM-470 “Economic growth and sustainability” (Philippe Thalmann)

  • The different dimensions of shame: a negative or positive emotion?

HUM-479 “Emotion and value” (Julien Deonna)

Author: Stephanie Parker

Source: College of humanities | CDH

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