Thursday, January 20, 2011

Groping in the Dark

Last night we watched the latest movie Barry had ordered from Netflix, Dark City.  It was released in 1998 while Titanic was still hogging most of the available theaters and didn't make much of a splash then, but has gone on to become a small cult classic.  The version we saw was the director's cut; it's had the original opening voiceover removed, as well as some of the other changes originally insisted upon by the studio.

One of the reasons the film didn't do well when first released was that New Line Cinema marketed it as a horror movie.  It's actually a postmodern science fiction/fantasy/mystery pastiche.  The lighting and set design are low-tech but gorgeous, producing a noir atmosphere halfway between that of an Edward Hopper painting and Bladerunner.  Some of the costumes and special effects appear to have influenced the later Matrix films.  Rufus Sewell plays John Murdoch, the bewildered hero, and Keifer Sutherland, William Hurt, and Jennifer Connelly also turn in fine performances.  The plot line, which includes serial murder, telepathic powers and mysterious aliens, is fascinating but secondary; I thought Dark City was really about the meaning of memories and whether they define our humanity.

The director's cut DVD includes several special features, the most interesting of which is a series of interviews with the author, directors, screenwriter, Roger Ebert, and a couple of psychiatrists about what the filmmakers were trying to do and how well they achieved their objectives.  I've watched a lot of "The Making Of..." clips, and this was by far the most detailed and informative I've ever seen.  It made me want to study the architecture of Sir John Soane and read Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Dr. Daniel Schreber so that I could grasp all the deep inner meaning embedded in Dark City.

This movie will definitely leave you thinking about the nature of reality and what it means to be human.

"The only place home exists... is in your head." ~Dr. Schreber in Dark City

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