Consider the events of the last few years – from Trump to Brexit to the virus we know what. Municipal estates continue to be gutted on the road to gentrification, and consumerism is fueled by targeted advertising from brands and businesses. It is not too hard to say that we are currently living in a dystopia.
But for at least half a century, the most evocative images of the fall in the near future haven’t been found on news sites and iPhone screens, but in the world of cinema. Whether it’s morbid fantasies of societies beset by nefarious powers or vital expressions of real-world angst, the screen remains the most effective reminder of the depths into which we can fall without thinking about our actions. .
In 2021, we live in a world characterized by widespread health scares, economic stagnation and political controversy. MUBIof Dystopia the season therefore arrives with good timing. But while we hope that a post-pandemic society doesn’t look like the tastes depicted in these movies, there are warnings inside that can’t be ignored. And what’s more, if there’s one thing to savor after a year of lockdowns and isolated living, it’s that imagination is a virtue.
Fingers crossed that the next few years don’t look like this – and check out five dystopian classics that are projected on MUBI in the not too distant present.
Touring over five years with a budget of only $ 30,000, the radical feminist dystopia of Lizzie Borden Born in flames depicts an alternative New York celebrating ten years of socialist revolution. But despite media hailing widespread peace and opportunity, the pseudo-documentary quickly reveals (via pirate radio shows, talkie interviews, and flying shakycam footage) that gender, race, and class divisions are reemerging. quickly. .
“Angry unemployed people are rampant in the streets,” said one journalist. “This is an economic war of sex,” said another, as loopholes in the state’s communist-inspired employment program inspire violence between disadvantaged groups.
An army of women, meanwhile, has become vigilante, delivering street justice to men who violently mistreat them. When the founder of the community commits suicide under suspicious circumstances, she becomes a martyr for the cause – and the increasingly dangerous group soon targets the World Trade Center with explosives in hopes of achieving their own revolution.
Despite winning the jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Born in flames remains largely unrecognized – but it remains a vital study of social and political anxieties in Reagan’s America. A restoration was completed in 2016, just in time for this narrative of female rebellion to take on new meaning in the divided society of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Terry Gilliam’s bureaucratic nightmare occupies a fascinating middle ground between the works of Franz Kafka and those of George Orwell – so it makes sense that it was originally meant to be titled 1984 ½.
In a retro-futuristic society (from a mid-80s perspective), fine dining means braised veal served as balls of green dough, and haute couture wears a leopard-skin boot on their head. But in the bland towers of Shangri-La and the gray walls of the Ministry of Information, the biggest obstacle isn’t bad taste – it’s the endless piles of paperwork that must be signed off to do anything.
Future Bond villain Jonathan Pryce is the bewildered everyone caught in a plot of dreams, terrorists, and lobotomies, who meet an unforgettable cast of characters in a consumer-crazed police state. Bob Hoskins foreshadows his appearance in Super Mario Bros. The Movie playing half of a duo of insistent plumbers; Robert de Niro, meanwhile, almost steals the show as a terrorist smoking a cigar and wearing a balaclava with a penchant for ziplines.
It all culminates on a brilliantly dark note – an ending Gilliam lobbied for publicly after the studio tried to replace it with a happy ending in Hollywood. Fortunately for this timeless totalitarian classic, man has prevailed.
A nightmarish mix of documentary and fiction, Under the skin finds Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson roaming the cold streets of Glasgow, seducing onlookers before subjecting them to an ominous fate. We learn that she’s an alien, devoid of empathy – at least, until she begins to find herself haunted by her actions.
The austere setting, rare dialogues, and unplanned encounters with audiences (prompted on a whim by director Jonathan Glazer, who communicated with Johansson via an earpiece) only heightens the film’s dark atmosphere. But no scene is more heartbreaking than the tragedy on a gray beach, which leaves a vulnerable baby screaming as the tide rises. The whole event is witnessed with indifference by Johansson’s cold, unemotional viewer – with such an unsettling mood, it’s easy to see why the film was booed on its Venice Film Festival debut.
Under the skin also served as the film industry’s dynamic introduction to the music of Mica Levi, who would receive an Oscar nomination three years later for her work on Jackie. Their score here – all the strings nailed to the board and the synth drones – reinforces the endless film’s nihilistic tone, which has helped it win nominations for Best British Film and Best Original Music at the BAFTAs.
“The city’s largest animal shelter has become a battlefield,” says a viewer in this Hungarian drama about the struggles of stray dogs in a world of callous humans.
Hagen is the brilliant lead role of the film – a shar pei labrador cross, abandoned by its owner’s father who is unwilling to pay the government-imposed “bastard” fees. Before long, the animal is subjected to trafficking, violence and abuse, like what on the surface looks like an East European Back home soon turns into a nightmarish allegory for the oppression of the working class. It all culminates in a bloody canine revolution, as a scramble of paws on deserted streets reflects openness to 28 days later (only instead of rabid zombies charging empty roads, his doggies).
Less dystopian was the production of the film. All of the extras were recruited from a local shelter, trained and rehabilitated to become the real stars of the film. 98 percent were repatriated after production ceased. The film won Certain Regard at Cannes in 2014, with the canine performers receiving their own award: the Palm Dog Award.
If the Brazilian grindhouse function Bacurau was the dystopian centerpiece of MUBI in 2020, then New order feels like a gritty older brother. Deeply controversial when it was released in Mexico last year (the outcry came straight from the film’s trailer), this flawless portrayal of a violent uprising won the Grand Jury Prize in Venice. Such polarized readings of the film bear witness to the complex messages it contains.
In Mexico, a high society wedding takes place in a modern suburban home. The guests are predominantly white, well-off, and obviously deaf to reports of violent protests around the world outside their complex. But when rioters scale the walls and start ruthlessly executing revelers, this unfailing social revolution underway quickly turns horrific.
While the film initially comments on the ruling class’s lack of empathy for the poor, New order soon withdraws to reveal that the impact of the working class riots on society at large is an equally grim premise. Military rule is imposed and curfews are enforced, and social freedoms are soon canceled. Ultimately, there is little discrimination as the haves and have-nots suffer equally uncomfortable consequences – from homelessness and unemployment to torture and death.
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