‘We anchored ourselves in wild adventure!’ Tilda Swinton on her trippy film about learning, AI and neuroscience

‘We anchored ourselves in wild adventure!’ Tilda Swinton on her trippy film about learning, AI and neuroscience

What can a pipe-smoking caterpillar, a few algorithms and a researcher from the year 2042 tell us about the future of learning? The actor turned director explains all the ideas that fed into her thought-provoking new documentary

‘This is a film about learning, full of questions, with not many answers,” announces Tilda Swinton at the start of her new documentary, The Hexagonal Hive and a Mouse in a Maze. “It has been dreamt up by the Derek Jarman Lab between 2016 and 2042, in conversations with thinkers both living and not, a caterpillar and one or two algorithms.”

It’s a useful heads-up that the film, co-directed by Swinton with Bartek Dziadosz, is no conventional piece of storytelling or analysis. The words “dreamt up” are telling too, for The Hexagonal Hive – which premieres at Sheffield DocFest this week – has the floating, freewheeling atmosphere of a dream. It collects ideas about neuroscience, education and the world of work, and creates a sensory collage that includes footage from Scotland, Bangladesh and west Africa, gnomic captions such as: “What a machine the world is – how to work its gears?” It also features the voices of academics and children, as well as clips from Night of the Hunter and My Neighbour Totoro.

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