Off screen

Bottles

“Toward the end of the film, the hero (Robert Duvall) attempts to escape from his underworld city (called, in the title of the student version of the film done by Lucas at the University of Southern California, an “Electronic Labyrinth”). It is an escape which will bring him finally to a huge ventilation shaft and from there into real daylight for the first time. On the way he breaks into a video monitor room, annex of the central computer bank, and in an act of ultimate counter-acculturation takes the controls himself. He punches out the necessary code and then focuses in on a full-screen shot of the bottled fetus to which his just-dead mate’s ID number has been reassigned. Too long trapped in this encaved prison house of images himself, he cannot help but read this last image—the only one he has chosen for himself to call up, the one that makes visible to him the end of what human place he could claim in this subterranean world—cannot help but read this fetal image, or at least we can’t help but read it for him, as a symbol. The hero will become now in his own shaved person just such a newborn identity, out the long tunnel into the light. In escaping from the actual detention center a few scenes before, the prison within the prison—an overexposed sterile space bled of color and without discernible walls or angles, as if it were the two-dimensional space of his own video-monitored entrapment on an engulfing white screen—he is led out by a fugitive hologram, no less. This video refugee, one of the figures nightly used to pacify the masses, is a mirage tired of being ensnared in his monotonous digital circuit and aching to break free into bodied reality. When asked by the hero for the direction out, he points straight off the screen into the camera and so at us, at a palpable world elsewhere, the world itself…”

Garrett Stewart, “Videology.” Shadows of the Magic Lamp: Fantasy and Science Fiction Film. George Slusser & Eric S. Rabin eds. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 1985. p 176.

No such thing

“When I went to do Star Wars, the real challenge was that I wanted to make a much more active film [than 2001] – which meant more shots, more cutting, more movement, more work. It had never been done before. I looked at this story I wanted to do, and said to myself: ‘Well, can I make this movie? How am I going to do this?’ And being young I responded: ‘Well, sure. I’ll figure out how to do it.’ At school I had a lot of experience in animation and that sort of thing, so I had a vague idea of how to approach some of this stuff from my animation background. Also, I had worked as a camerman and as an editor. I thought: ‘I think I know how to put this together.”

Lizard

“It was a bit like my first film, THX 1138. Walter Murch and I had to present it to the studio, and we put together this presentation showing that it was going to be a futuristic and outlining how we were going to be shooting it on location and such. And we put in there that we were going to develop this very unusual reality using ‘rotary-cam’ photography. We said: ‘That sounds good. Let’s put that in there.’ Fortunately, nobody at the studio asked what it was – because it was nothing. There was no such thing as rotary-cam photography. We thought it would make them believe that we could create this whole world with some wonderful new technique, when all we were going to do was shoot on locations and overexpose a lot.”

Don Shay, “30 Minutes with the Godfather of Digital Cinema”, Cinefex #65. March 1996. p. 58.

My time… is your time

“In the tradition of films like Metropolis, Things to Come, and Logan’s Run, all works that carefully stylize their futuristic worlds and, in the process, set their reality at a safe aesthetic distance from our own, THX 1138 too reaches for a distinct visual scheme, a highly stylized rendition of this other place. However, instead of the sort of monumental look we find to some degree in most utopian/dystopian films, it turns in another direction, offering a stark simplicity: cubicles and bare walls that frame the individual within severe rectangles, imprisoning the subject but also replicating the film frame itself and thereby rendering the person as doubly a “screened” image. In a further development of this design scheme, seen especially in the futuristic prison-without-walls to which THX is consigned, it emphasizes horizonless, open space that has the effect of reducing dimension, turning the self into a two-dimensional figure. More pervasive, though building to a similar effect, is the monochromatic color scheme. The constant white-on-white, recalling the initial descriptions of the future world in Huxley’s Brave New World, not only suggests a sterile and lifeless world but also diminishes the individual by making the subject blend into the background and again appear two-dimensional. Individuality and individuation simply have no place here. The overall effect of this visual design scheme is to consistently frame subjects in an abstract space, removing them from a conventionally real world and, in the process, reconfiguring them as part of a derealized environment.

Praying
“In keeping with this effect, THX 1138 also brings into the foreground the very role of representation here and its implications for future life; for from its start this film manifests a kind of self-consciousness, evoking the mechanism of the movies and asking us to consider the effects of that mechanism. We see this impulse in the constant iconography of video screens, computer terminals, and surveillance technology, in the whole mechanics of reproduction on which the genre so often focuses. Of course, that sort of imagery hardly seems out of place here, since such icons typically fill our science fiction narratives. As Garrett Stewart notes, these various “mechanics of apparition,” through their omnipresence, have indeed become a kind of generic signature.”

Telotte, J.P. “The Science Fiction Film as Fantastic Text: THX 1138.” Science Fiction Film.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. pp  130.

Are you now or have you ever been?

“In an interview about the sound for THX 1138, Walter Murch charaterised the ambience recordings for the “White Limbo” sequneces in this way: “It’s basically the room tone from the Exploratorium in San Francisco. …It’s a veil of mysterious sound – it doesn’t have have anything specific to it, but it is full of suggestive fragments.” This description could easily be used to categorize the entire sound track of the film. The sound montages are full of “suggestive fragments” that offer subtle cinematic metaphors, sharp social criticism, and even satire in in the tradition of George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldos Huxley’s Brave New World…” [1]

hallway

“Technology mediates the presentation of all of […] images and sounds, filtering them through video cameras and audio processors. Every bit of data is under review and scrutiny, not just by a centralized authority but also by the system of oppression in which the characters are trapped. No individual takes up the role of antagonist, rather the film presents the cumulative effects of intrusive technology and misguided authority and social rules. At this point of convergence, individual rights erode. The filmgoer is also implicated in the process of analysis. Just as with the French New Wave narratives, the film demands an active reading strategy to synthesize the narrative data and evaluate these images and sounds of the future. The hope is that the filmgoer will also speculate about the possibilities of this sort of oppression in contemporary society. Lucas explains, “We have all the potentials today [for this course toward the future], polluted air to drive you underground, tranquilizing drugs and computers. Whether it happens depends on the human spirit. Or the lack of it.”‘

“As the sequence continues, the social and technical mechanisms of observation and oppression are revealed more clearly in the editorial equivalent of a pull back. The images become less processed, though the sounds remain heavily manipulated as a subtle reminder of the notion of eavesdropping. The allusion to “Big Brother” in Orwell’s 1984 cannot be missed. A central control node is revealed, exposing controllers, banks of monitors, and computerized consoles, much like a television studio. Thematically, the setting reiterates the connection to modern media practices, while the screens and sound bites underscore a connection to consumer culture. In a cutaway, a chrome police officer holds the hand of a child as they wait for an elevator. The music accompanying the scene is canned and hollow, akin to something shoppers might hear in a mall. To achieve this effect, Murch played “dry” recordings of the music in the empty hallway then re-recorded it to merge its echoes and spatial cues, using his technique of “worldizing. “‘ The result is the audio equivalent of fluores- cent lighting, dulling humanity and emotion in this controlled subterranean environment. Thematically, the images and sounds reveal that this society has reverted to infancy by a dependency on mechanization and technology.” [2]

William Whittington, “Suggestive Fragments in THX 1138”, Sound Design & Science Fiction. Austin: University of Texas Press. 2007. [1] p 75, [2] 78.

Zardoz Commands You

zardoz-_1974_

“In the year AD 2293, a post-apocalypse Earth is inhabited mostly by the “Brutals”, who are ruled by the “Exterminators”, “the Chosen” warrior class. The Exterminators worship the god Zardoz, a huge, flying, hollow stone head. Zardoz teaches:

The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth . . . and kill!

“The Zardoz god head supplies the Exterminators with weapons, while the Exterminators supply it with grain. Meanwhile, Zed [as in the last letter of the English alphabet] (played by Connery), an Exterminator, enters Zardoz, hidden in a load of grain, and shoots (and apparently kills) its pilot, Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy) (identified as an Eternal in the story’s prologue), and travels to the Vortex. The Vortices are hidden communities of civilization where the immortal “Eternals” lead a luxurious but aimless existence.

“Arriving in the Vortex, Zed meets two women Eternals — Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) and May (Sara Kestelman) — with psychic powers; mentally overcoming him, they make him prisoner of their community. Consuella wants Zed destroyed immediately; others, led by May and a subversive Eternal named Friend (John Alderton), insist on keeping him for study…”

Zardoz synopsis Wikipedia
Zardoz title image Mr Bali Hai’s Psychotronic Titles

Ultimate Warrior

“Only a few people still live in New York in 2015. They are organized in gangs with their own turf. One of them is led by Baron, another one by Carrot, and they are constantly at war with each other.”

“Directed by Robert ‘Enter the Dragon‘ Clouse, The Ultimate Warrior is a gritty, uncompromising effort blessed with a quality cast and some brutally violent and well choreographed fight scenes. Baldy Brynner is perfect as the honourable hero for hire, and looks totally bad-ass stripped to his waist and brandishing a wickedly sharp dagger. Likewise, Smith is excellent as Carson’s heartless nemesis Carrot, a savage brute so cruel that he thinks nothing of using a baby as bait to lure his enemy into a trap. From it’s opening scene, in which a cobweb-strewn, dusty, derelict loft provides the setting for a violent ambush, to the gripping bloody finalé, which sees Brynner and Smith battling to the death in a long abandoned subway, the Ultimate Warrior is unrelentingly harsh glimpse into a possible future where life is cheap, and often short.”

IMDB

Crash! [1971]

“When Paul Haggis won the Best Picture Oscar in 2005 for a film called Crash, fellow Canadian David Cronenberg wasn’t among the well-wishers. In fact Cronenberg was positively livid, accusing Haggis of ‘functional stupidity’ for allegedly stealing the title of the Baron of Blood’s 1996 Ballard adaptation. But funnily enough Cronenberg wasn’t the first to direct a film called Crash. He wasn’t even the first to direct a Ballard adaptation called Crash. That’s a title claimed 25 years earlier (allowing for the presence of a rogue exclamation mark) by Harley Cokeliss (formerly known as ‘Harley Cokliss’), who made the 1971 short film ‘Crash!’ from fragments found in Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition (including the film’s title, punctuation and all, lifted from the title of an Atrocity chapter). Of course, Cokliss also pre-empted Jonathan Weiss’s feature-film version of Atrocity, released in 2000.”