Sunday, September 20, 2009

Questions in the Dark

Murder mysteries can be fiendishly difficult things to unravel. However, there are certain assumptions we often take for granted: the laws of physics are constant, time moves linearly, the human perception of reality is - by and large - an accurate representation. But what if these basic rules of existence could not be assumed?

What constitutes a human being? More specifically, what makes a human being act? The Marxists tell us that class and the economic realities of society condition our behavior. The chemists, pushed to their farthest extremes, might tell us that chemicals in our brains explain all our actions. Likewise, the psychologists would tell us that past experiences condition our behavior in the present. But are any of these answers fully sufficient?

Do those who possess great power know how to utilize it? This is frequently our assumption, but what if those with superhuman powers could only exercise them clumsily?

These questions may seems quite disparate, but Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998) manages to address all of them, and quite artfully. Set in a surreal 1940s-esque future, Dark City might seem confusing or disjointed at first - or even just plain weird - but the loose ends pull together in a way that is quite satisfying. Visually compelling, intellectually rich and narratively satisfying, Dark City is a winner.

(Sadly, I think the trailer fails to quite capture the feeling of the film. Think more noir and less techno.)
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