In my darker moods, I can’t help but notice in what a bleak future we live. Sure, there are many elements of America that still exist, and some of which are strong, at least in some parts of the country. But things like constitutionalism, rule of law, respect for wisdom, faith, and a great deal many other wonderful items are daily disrespected, ignored, and/or abused.
I’ve been on a kick lately of watching dystopian films, that genre—next to zombie movies—that Americans love best. Last week I watched the 1974 cult classic Zardoz (starring an out-of-work Sean Connery), a film that shouldn’t exist given the nature of studio politics (it’s a rare example of a studio saying, “Make whatever you want,” and the director took it seriously). I also watched the less classic Equilibrium (2002), starring Christian Bale.
Zardoz explores a distant future in which frosty, immortal, aloof, and bored elites, the Eternals, live in perpetual paradise while employing vicious, gun-toting Brutals to exterminate the excess population of Earth. Equilibrium tells the story of a society, Libria—a mash-up of America and Britain, it seems—that, in order to prevent a fourth global war, outlaws all emotions, on the premise that art and literature inflame men’s passions to destructive degrees.
While it might not qualify as a “dystopian” film, I also viewed the Coen Brothers’ classic Barton Fink (1991), about the titular writer—a successful Broadway playwright who writes theatrical productions about, of, and for “the common man“—who cashes in on his success with a move to Los Angeles to write for Capitol Pictures, where he immediately develops writers’ block. Fink is a 1940s Jewish intellectual who pontificates frequently about his desire to tell the grubby, realistic stories of everyday people, yet he keeps ignoring his shabby hotel neighbor, Charlie Meadows, an insurance salesman who tells Fink repeatedly, “I could tell you some stories.”
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