I’ve recently watched Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed. That film has numerous little layers of ideas that adds to the world. Little details such as Rube Goldberg machineries, ducts and cables underneath metal panels, and stamp-signature ridden bureaucracy makes effectively creates a world which suspends my disbelief. It was brilliant.
The movie is another entry in my collection of movies depicting dystopian futures, probable glimpses of tomorrow’s societies which are ridden with piling imperfection which are made in the attempt to cure other imperfections.
And so, it is official: I’m fascinated with dystopia!
Perhaps one of the main draw of these films is the underlying situation of an imperfect future which imperfection is the result of failure in perfecting other imperfections, like I’ve said above.
Instances of such can be found in each of the films I’ve mentioned. And in most cases, such follies are vital elements that moves the plot.
In Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, a bug in the seemingly perfect government issued air conditioning system propels the protagonist to eventually meet a vigilante handyman who is branded as a terrorist, a rube goldberg machine activates an unnecesary huge ball to plug the bathtub while pouring coffee onto a piece of toas, and earlier in the movie, a whimsical human error creates a fault in an information system, causing in the wrongful arrest of an innocent and upstanding member of society.
Those three problems arose out of something that are meant to help and increase the quality of life in the first place. Firstly, you have the bug in the automatic air conditioning system which is inconspicuously set up underneath wall panels to prevent the elaborate setup from being an eyesore. But it ended up being a hassle to fix, and also creates a bureaucratic hassle in fixing.
Secondly, the rube goldberg setup was meant to automate things that people usually multitask. But alas, its operation is not free from internal fault.
And thirdly, a sophisticated and intricate information system which are meant to help specific people in an organisation query specific informations is rendered erroneous by human error.
Much like real life, ain’t it?
In Minority Report, a special section of the police is set up. This special section, dubbed “precrime” enables the arrest of people who are foreseen to commit criminal acts. The idea was to create an idyllic society where crime is unheard of. But of course, a problem arises when a man is arrested for a crime which intention has been withdrawn. How can a person be arrested for commiting a crime which he’s interest in comitting? It’s like you being arrested for the having the thought to steal your neighbour’s cat-an intention you’ve withdrawn. In that situation, the slightest possibility of reproach or restraint is not considered. A redeeming outcome is that those convicted are not exactly sent to jail. But rather, placed in stasis cells where each are kept for a definite period of time. Kind of like sleeping your sentence away.
A Scanner, Darkly and Nineteen-Eighty-Four employs a similar system of surveilance to create order in society. The difference being, that one uses a very prominent form of surveilance, and the other uses a devious, personal way of monitoring a person’s sight, sound, and thought. In one film there’s big brother, an insidious totalitarian concept, and on the other, covert surveilance. Both methods invasive, both geared towards some form of order.
All these goes hand in hand with the saying; “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Perhaps there’s a little evil in every innovation. Little evils which intersects with other little evils and pile up into a humongous ball of evil which are originally made with good intent.
And perhaps, surely perhaps, the real world is already filled with them bouncy byproducts of well intentioned innovations.