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The digital revolution is well and truly upon us, and if anyone was in any doubt as to how far away a mechanised future is, the fleet of robotic workers being engineered in China should spell things out more clearly.
Thankfully, we haven’t quite reached the oppressive state of ‘Metropolis’ as yet (at least, not in this country), though many people slogging away at their 9-5 jobs may beg to differ.
If the onscreen depiction of a lot far worse than our own offered a weird escapism from today’s increasingly cyber-centric and work-orientated world, then there are plenty more cinematic dystopias to get your teeth into. Don’t take my word for it – check out the shortlist of suggestions below and then feel free to augment it with some of your own in the comments box at the bottom.
The influence ‘Metropolis’ had on Chaplin when penning ‘Modern Times’ is plain for all to see. Ever the jester, Chaplin replaces Lang’s frantic Freder with his lovable Tramp character who bungles his way from one oppressive situation to the next.
For recommendations on other movies similar to Chaplin’s masterpiece, check out this list (none of which are, but several of which could have been, repeated here).
Somewhat overshadowed by the far more bombastic and successful ‘Matrix’ franchise which would begin the year after, ‘Dark City’ explores similar themes of assimilated reality and manipulative overlords.
The basic plot follows a man suffering from total amnesia who tries to piece his life reality back together, all the while being pursued by a band of secretive and sinister agents.
Even acclaimed critic Roger Ebert enthused about the imagination of the film and likened it to Frang’s work: “‘Dark City’ by Alex Proyas is a great visionary achievement, a film so original and exciting, it stirred my imagination like ‘Metropolis’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’”
The dimly lit backdrops and sterilised interiors of Alphaville are reminiscent of Metropolis’ polished and ruthless efficiency – indeed, parallels can be drawn between the architecture and sets of several of the films on this list.
In this neo-noir tale, an archetypal rogue detective vows to destroy the tyrannical machine which has enslaved society, along with its nefarious creator.
Forget ‘Star Wars’, George Lucas was a master filmmaker long before Luke Skywalker was tussling with his papa or embarking on morally questionable affairs.
Though ‘American Graffiti’ gets the major of his pre-Force acclaim, ‘THX 1138’ is a brilliant imagining of a dystopian future society controlled by drugs, sex and dehumanisation (much like Aldous Huxley’s fantastic ‘Brave New World’).
Bioengineering beings carrying out some of the world’s more mundane tasks might seem like a great idea in theory, but what happens when these “replicants” become so lifelike that they wish to live beyond their allotted time? Harrison Ford happens, that’s what.
As the eponymous Blade Runner, Ford must track down four of the more bothersome scallywags before they get their grubby mitts on the precious elixir that could keep them alive longer.
Don’t forget to also have a look at these other films like ‘Blade Runner’.
Though the above suggestions vary in location, era and storyline, they all offer a bleak glimpse into a potential future, often featuring dangerously advanced technological developments.
The following recommendation is not necessarily characterised by prophetic doom-and-gloomery, but rather by its indictment of the savagery of man and society in their current forms.
Imagine if aliens came to Earth and witnessed humanity waging wars on itself? Governments and individuals maiming, killing, bazookaing and generally being horrible to their fellow man? What on Earth would they think?
‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ might just have the answer.
Much like the plight of the common man and the exploited worker extolled in these films, your opinion deserves – no, demands – a voice!
Give it one by listing your own favourite films like ‘Metropolis’ or other pieces of anti-establishment propaganda from the silver screen below.
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