Totalitarian Futures (Big Brother is Watching You!)
On this blog entry, I wanted to talk a bit about films in which an evil Totalitarian Government has taken over and is oppressing the people. I’ve noticed there’s quite a few of these films out there and I thought it would make an interesting blog entry. Basically, these films have a couple of themes in common. They are always about an oppressive government wanting to maintain a grip hold on society, by controlling every single aspect of the lives of its people. So they take away their rights to individuality, independent thought, culture, art and freedom. Art is banned, books are banned and even freedom of speech is banned. Basically, the people in these films are screwed! But there’s always a rebel that runs like hell trying to get away from it all. So anyhows, here is a list of some of these films. I start from the oldest ones to the more recent ones.
Feel free to mention any that I didn’t mention, I really didn’t put them all in here to let you guys have some fun!
Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Director: Francois Truffaut
Stars: Julie Christie, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack
Synopsis: This movie is about a totalitarian future in which it is prohibited to read books. Books that might make you think and see things differently. Books through which we can learn new things and communicate with one another. So they government has firemen that go around searching for books and burning them. This is the movie that influenced Equilibrium the most. Its almost identical in themes and situations, only Fahrenheit 451 is a bit slower in pace, and yes, even boring. Its based on Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: When the firemen discover a house where an old lady has collected thousands upon thousands of books, they burn down her whole house! With her inside of it!
THX 1138 (1971)
Director: George Lucas
Stars: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Maggie McOmie
Synopsis: On this George Lucas’s first science fiction film and finest day as a director we meet THX 1138, a man who is getting tired and worn out on the way things are in his life. He prays to a computerized Jesus that doesn’t listen or talk to him, except for prerecorded messages of hope. He works in a factory day and night, goes home to a cold soulless existence and is tired of taking the government issued drugs! Pretty soon, he starts showing signs of wear, and the government takes notice and begins to hunt him down, so he decides to run! This is George Lucas’s version of 1984, sex is evil, everyone is the same, and big brother is most definitely watching you.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Everyone has to look the same, so in this totalitarian future, everyone has to dress in white (except the police who wears black) and everyone has to be completely bald! Also, sex is an evil thing.
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Synopsis: Miles Munroe is your regular every day Joe. He works in a health food store and is a Jazz musician. He is suddenly cryogenically frozen without his consent, and is left in that frozen state for 200 years! When he wakes up, he realizes that the world is being ruled by a dictator looking to brainwash all of society! As is usually the case with all these kinds of films, the rebel ends up running from the evil government while trying to uncover the truth behind the mysterious Äries Project. This Woody Allen film is the film that Mike Judge’s Idiocracy (2006) most borrowed from, with the same plot of having someone frozen and woken up hundreds of years later in a completely altered society.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Brainwashing people into submission.
Soylent Green (1973)
Director: Richard Fleischer
Stars: Charlton Heston
Synopsis: In the future, there is not enough food for everyone because humans have sucked the world dry and there is over population. So the government issues special crackers called Soylent Green, Soylent Blue and Soylent Yellow. People are addicted to these cookies, but there isn’t enough to go around! Violence and crime are rampant! Its up to one cop to find out the truth about these mysterious crackers they keep giving everybody! An excellent sci-fi film with a really shocking ending! You got to see it to believe it. Charlton Heston plays an asshole cop.
Sings of a Totalitarian Government: People living in poverty on the streets because of bad planning and administration. Some live in rich luxury filled apartments, while the rest of humanity lives trying to survive on whatever else is left. When things get out of control, simply bring in that riot control to take care of the masses as if they were cattle.
Logan’s Run (1976)
Director: Thomas Anderson
Stars: Michael York, Farah Fawcett
Synopsis: In this future, humans live inside of giant domes that have controlled weather conditions and everyone is looking for the ultimate pleasure. It’s an empty life, where you have as much fun as you can while you are alive. Problem is, that to avoid over population, the government has issued a law where you have to kill yourself once you turn 33! Logan doesn’t want to live by these rules and believes there is a better world outside of the dome; so what does he do? He runs from the evil government! This flick is very 70s, the sets, the clothes…everything screams 70s camp! But, the film has some very interesting themes, and the effects are actually not that bad for the time it was made.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: When you turn 33 you have to throw yourself into these lasers that disintegrate your body instantaneously! If you don’t do as you are told, you get chased around by these law enforcement officers that will disintegrate you with their own laser guns. Kind of like Blade Runners, but for humans.
Director: Michael Radford
Stars: John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton
Synopsis: It’s interesting that this film was released on the year 1984. This movie is a faithful translation of the book. Orwell’s vision is brilliantly brought to life here. The film is grim, dark, depressing; this is definitely the world that Orwell envisioned in his book. We follow Winston Smith on his day to day, we see how sad it would be to live in a world that doesn’t let you breathe, doesn’t allow privacy or individuality. It’s a gut wrenching tale, especially once you get to the climax. Sadly, big brother doesn’t want us to watch this movie because it is out of print, and hasn’t seen the light of day in a long time. Curiously, the 1956 version of 1984 isn’t available either. Out of all the movies on this list, I truly think this one is the best one. Its the one that really "got" to me.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Sex is prohibited and only used for procreation. Your children are brainwashed starting at a very young age, they are taught to love big brother. Coffee, sugar, butter and all the good things in life are prohibited.
Director: Terry Gilliam
Stars: Jonathan Price, Michael Palin, Robert Deniro, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm, Kim Greist
Synopsis: Sam Lowry is your regular run of the mill dude who takes pride in being nothing special. He works as an assistant in a government office. And leads a pretty boring life, doing the same thing over and over again. He lives in a cramped little apartment, and is alone. But he dreams. He dreams of being a knight in shinning armor (with wings and a sword!) that goes on a Quixotic quest to save the love of his life. His next door neighbor. Problem is she’s a rebel! And pretty soon Sam finds himself running from the government with her! Will they escape the clutches of the evil government? This film is a masterpiece of fantasy and subversive cinema. Its got Terry Gilliam’s visual flare and is sprinkled with comedy, just so things wont be so dark. The original title that Gilliam wanted for this film? 1984 ½.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: The flood of burocracy you have to go through to do everything, and in the end, nothing ends up getting done. Gilliam tries to show that in their attempt to control everything, what really dominates is chaos, disorder and confusion.
They Live (1988)
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster
Synopsis: Nobody knows it, but aliens are slowly taking over the earth. Their method of conquer? They make themselves look like humans, fooling everybody! They control the masses by giving them subliminal messages through the television, newspapers, magazines and billboards. The subliminal messages say “obey” “stay asleep” “Consume” “Buy”. Good thing that Roddy Piper discovers these neat-o glasses that let him see the truth! Suddenly, Piper realizes just how many aliens are walking the streets, and just how many subliminal messages are all over the place! Its time to kick some alien ass! This movie was John Carpenters way of criticizing the consumer mentality that is running rampant in society today. We don’t know it, but were being told to buy buy buy buy buy. Don’t believe me; see how far you can go without seeing some sort of commercial trying to sell you something!
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Controlling the masses by controlling the media. In John Carpenter' s own words: “All they want is our money!”
Dark City (1998)
Director: Alex Proyas
Stars: Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland
Synopsis: John Murdock wakes up one day a little off. He starts seeing and noticing things he had not noticed before, like these mysterious pale dudes walking around in black trench coats. Normally, no one can see them, but John Murdock can! Soon, he starts to search for the truth (like any true rebel will) and comes upon an incredible revelation. Won’t spoil it for you because if you haven’t seen this movie, you have to see it! It’s dark, gothic and just plain weird. Like a big budget episode of The Twilight Zone. A movie heavy on themes and symbolisms.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Independent thought is eliminated. Thinking on your own and making your own choices is not allowed. Play your role in society and shut up. But what happens when you want to go against that? What happens when you start using your brain and seeing things for what they really are?
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Stars: Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, Sean Bean, David Hemmings
Synopsis: John Preston works as an enforcement officer for the government. All forms of emotion are prohibited in this future, so Preston goes around searching out those rebels who show any sign of emotion. Everyone is cold and emotionless because of a government issued drug that everyone takes. At one point, Preston decides to stop taking the pill, and he starts to feel and decides to switch sides and bring down the evil government leader. This movie has some awesome action sequences, involving a new type of martial arts called “gunkata” which is kind of like a mix between martial arts and guns.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Prohibiting emotion and individualism, art, books, music.
The Island (2005)
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Scarlet Johansson, Sean Bean, Djimon Honsou
Synopsis: On this one a pair of clones grow up inside of a cloning complex (which mirrors the way certain governments like to do things in this world) and are told that one day, they are going to win the lottery and go live in a fantastical island where everything is fine and dandy. They offer you the opportunity to end up on this island paradise. You could be next in line to win the ticket there! But two androids begin to think outside the box and start noticing that things are not exactly what they seem, and that there is more then meets the eye with their current situation. So they run! Michael Bay is the director of this film, and usually that means I’m going to hate the film, but this one isn’t half bad. Its Michael Bay’s dumbed down version of 1984, with lots of action and special effects. This movie has elements of many films that came before it like 1984, THX 1138 and Clonus. Actually, this film copied Clonus so much that the director of that film sued and ended up getting money because Dreamworks accepted that The Island had copied more then 100 things from that film!
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: They lie to the masses; everything you think is real is an illusion. When one of the sheep tries to uncover the truth, the sheep must be slaughtered.
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr., Rory Cochrane
Synopsis: A bunch of looser friends all live together on in a crowded apartment, paranoid and crazy, they always think somebody is after them! They are being watched! They are all paranoid because they are all addicted to a new kind of drug called Substance D. But there’s something strange about the origin of Substance D. And an undercover cop decides to figure out exactly what it is. Problem is, he is addicted to the drug himself! This film is interesting, not only because of its themes, but also because the film is animated.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: When a guy takes out his megaphone while walking down the streets and starts talking against the government a mysterious black van drives by, picks him up and takes him away. Disappearing forever. If you talk too much, you get whipped out and silenced.
V for Vendetta (2006)
Director: James McTeigue
Stars: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt
Synopsis: V for Vendetta is based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name. Its about a rebel called “V” who dresses up in a Guy Fawkes suit and goes around trying to show the evil government a thing or two. Thwarting their evil plans and turning the people against them. This movie is great because its one of the few that has a real rebellious aura to it. Its like, you don't like how things are going, then do something about it! I was actually kind of surprised to see this film getting such a huge release; after all it has an extremely rebellious vibe to it, and usually films of this nature don't get much exposure. But I applaud this movie for saying what it has to say: Totalitarian Governments should not be allowed to exist, we the people are the ones who need to make sure of that.
Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Controlling television stations and what is said through them. The prohibition of books, movies, music and works of art.