An era from the future, the post-apocalyptic world, scientific leaps and a new and improved form of human race! The timeless game of ‘what-ifs’ and the pervasive revelries about what future holds, what life would be like years after we are gone, have always held the fancy of the inquisitive human mind.
It is hardly surprising then, that literature and other forms of fiction have found ways to cash in on this very obsession of mankind. Perhaps, it was the wisdom of the writers who could envision a darker, murkier world, given our profligate nature, or perhaps it was the knowledge that randomness is inevitable and inescapable. Invariably, ‘Dystopia’ is what was spawned from this desire to encapsulate the futurism of the planet and the race.
The term ‘Utopia’ was coined by Sir Thomas More, in his bid to describe an ideal, placid and problem-free world. Dystopia, on the other hand is perceived as the antonym of Utopia, an undesirable milieu, replete with environmental hazards, scientific disasters, political doldrums. A backdrop where, the very essence of humanity and life is worth little. Dystopian societies have appeared in various stories set in future. To cite the most famous works, George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, serve as examples of Dystopian worlds, where totalitarianism is institutionalized and genetic engineering is fast dehumanizing people at large.
As the popularity of films as a media to communicate concerns and ideas grew, many film-makers were seen dabbling into the genre, adapting novels to films, trying to spread awareness about the perils of the dissolute way of life of man, or the general de-intellectualizing of people, or even the fascism of propagandist media.
Here’s a list of films that stand out:
A Clockwork Orange
The unparalleled Stanley Kubrick, adapted Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange in 1971. A film way ahead of its time, A Clockwork Orange is set in Britain, in the far future. The film deals with the insidiousness of socialism and interventionism through the story of Alex, a wayward, violent youth who indulges in acts of ‘mega-violence’ remorselessly and finds an almost symphonic joy in them. However, the system tries to wipe out the very core of being, by lobotomizing him and instilling in him a fear of Beethoven’s symphonies, the only thing dear to young Alex. The film has multiple themes and forces one to think about the horrifying consequences of inordinate regulation.
V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta is a powerful film, set in a totalitarian Britain. It portrays a world where people unquestioningly and meekly follow the orders and do as told, while an exploitative oligarchy reigns over and intellectually enslaves them in a Big Brother-esque fashion. Here, emerges a revolutionary, a cloaked hero, in a Guy Fawkes mask, who dares to disrupt the system and question the authoritarian government. V for Vendetta was adapted from the graphic novel with the same name, written by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. V for Vendetta made the Guy Fawkes visage a symbol of revolution and anarchism against an unfair system.
A 2005 film starring Evan Mcgregor and Scarlett Johansson, The Island is a futuristic film that explores the misuse of science. It tries to mirror the innate narcissism of human beings, and their endless lust for life and immortality at all costs. It is an indirect critique of today’s culture of corporate ethics, classism, exploitation, and also explores the themes of organ transplantation and medical ethics. Based on the idea that the affluent may pay a private enterprise to produce their clones, so as to exploit them and use them to replace their body parts while enjoying a reckless, debauched lifestyle. With the basic theme being the selfish nature of man, the film also forces us to mull over where we draw the line as regards scientific and technological advances.
Never Let Me Go
An adaptation of the highly acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, is yet another film that makes us wonder about the flippant attitude we tend to have towards collateral damage. The movie follows the story of three friends who have been brought to the planet with the sole purpose of being organ donors for the rich and powerful. They are kept in idyllic conditions and given the healthiest possible upbringing, but their fates are premeditated. Never Let Me Go is tragic and evocative, and exposes the blasé attitude of mankind towards those less fortunate than themselves.
The Hunger Games Series
Also based on a novel series with the same name, The Hunger Games holds up mirror to the society’s obsession with reality television, sensationalism and the inanity of vox populi. The Hunger Games is a bloodcurdling interpretation of a world blind to others’ suffering, a world which hungrily laps up drama and intrigue, without heeding the consequences.
Such films are highly significant in today’s context, as we deal with the ills of our exploitation and deracination. With scientific discoveries exploding boundlessly, and our senses being numbed by the almost commonplace accounts of violence, there are signs of a languorous apathy setting in. As we fall prey to propaganda and manufactured bulletins, Dystopian films and fiction remind us that we must feed our heads and never give up our pursuit of truth. In a rapidly dehumanizing world, Dystopian works attempt to remind us of the human side that makes us who we are.