Opening from J.G.Ballards 1977 short story, ‘The Intensive Care Unit’.
Within a few minutes the next attack will begin. Now that I am surrounded for the first time by all the members of my family it seems only fitting that a complete record should be made of this unique event. As I lie here – barely able to breathe, my mouth filled with blood and every tremor of my hands reflected in the attentive eye of the camera six feet away – I realize that there are many who will think my choice of subject a curious one. In all senses, this film will be the ultimate homemovie, and I only hope that whoever watches it will gain some idea of the immense affection I feel for my wife, and for my son and daughter, and of the affection that they, in their unique way, feel for me.
It is now half an hour since the explosion, and everything in this once elegant sitting room is silent. I am lying on the floor by the settee, looking at the camera mounted safely out of reach on the ceiling above my head. In this uneasy stillness, broken only by my wife’s faint breathing and the irregular movement of my son across the carpet, I can see that almost everything I have assembled so lovingly during the past years has been destroyed. My Svres lies in a thousand fragments in the fireplace, the Hokusai scrolls are punctured in a dozen places. Yet despite the extensive damage this is still recognizably the scene of a family reunion, though of a rather special kind.
The film is particularly well known for a single tracking shot that lasts for over 8 minutes. The shot follows a car slowly moving through a traffic jam. After eight minutes, the cause is discovered: a family has been in a car accident and their bodies lie across the road. It is a stark contrast to the beeping horns and frustrated drivers waiting to get by.
Here in my car
I can only receive
I can listen to you
It keeps me stable for ( nights )
– this is the only wrong word you put days
Here in my car
Where the image breaks down
Will you visit me please?
If I open my door
Here in my car
I know Ive started to think
About leaving tonight
Although nothing seems right
“The Concentration City” is set in a “city” encompassing everything in known existence to its inhabitants. The districts comprises endless streets and buildings and seemingly infinitely high and low levels, or floors, with few trees and little wildlife. Cubic space is in shortage and expensive; high speed transportation is in use, but it is implied that many people do not find the need to leave their particular area. The people do not know what lies beyond the endless urban expansion, but seem to care little, and generally assume that there are just endless levels and districts that have existed forever.
The short story follows a physics student named Franz, who devotes his time to the concept of “free space” – the idea that somewhere, there must be just infinite amounts of space, a concept labelled as nonsensical by most of the other city’s inhabitants. He also wishes to develop a machine for flight – a relatively unknown theory due to the complete lack of partially open spaces.
Eventually, Franz decides to travel on one of the high-speed rail coaches for as long as possible in one direction in order to discover what lies beyond the urban zoning and trying to find free space. The story ends when Franz after ten days of travelling realises that the coach is travelling back in the opposite direction. When he is finally stopped by the authorities, he notices the date of a calendar is unchanged from when he set forth travelling. Franz discovers that if one keeps travelling forward, one finally ends back in the same place at the same time.