Rufus Sewell  John Murdoch 
William Hurt   Inspector Bumstead
Kiefer Sutherland  Dr. Daniel Schreber
Jennifer Connelly  Emma Murdoch
Richard O'Brien  Mr. Hand

Directed by Alex Proyas. Written by Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer. 1998. Running time: 103 Minutes.

aug98pik.jpg (10666 bytes)What if the "mad" people are actually right? If the insane ones are really the only sane ones. I think it was the French philosopher Breton who basically said that there is precious little to disavow us from such an opinion, especially when we consider how insane many of our own commonly accepted assumptions are when one thinks about it. How can one actually believe, for example, that having enough stockpiles of nuclear weapons to destroy our entire planet several times over is actually beneficial to peace. Or how many of us believe that abortion is wrong because it is murder, but have no qualms when it comes to sending off soldiers to fight, die and kill others in the Gulf War (as ex-American President George Bush so ardently believed). I can go on - but you get the general gist of it.

Just how sane are we? And even scarier: what if the lunatics are right? What if they are somehow glimpsing a terrible truth that we are (through consensus) too afraid to admit to ourselves. A character in Neil Gaiman's Sandman states that we know all that there is to know about everything, but we pretend that we don't because that knowledge is too terrible to consciously contemplate. Now this makes for excellent pub metaphysics and if I had been drinking I would no doubt have carried on a bit longer. But not only does it make for spirited (in more than one sense of the word) discussion over a few pints of bitter, it also makes for good movies. Take the recent Dark City as example . . .

After having seen the movie, a friend sent me some interesting pieces of information taken from the Times Literary Supplement. Here are some excerpts:

[Director] Proyas has said that he deliberately modeled the film on the visual style of Metropolis, with elements of German Expressionism from other sources. He explains, too, that "the paranoid aspect of the story came out of dreams I had as a child --that while I was asleep, dark figures would come into my bedroom and rearrange things". Yeah, they came to my house too. But, curiously, Proyas doesn't mention - and reviewers have missed - Dark City's blatant genesis in a book that has been called "one of the most glorious ever written by a psychiatric patient", Memoirs of my Nervous Illness (1903) by Daniel Paul Schreber (1842-1911)." [Note: the Sutherland is actually called Dr. Schreber in the movie]

He [Schreber] had his first schizophrenic breakdown and hospitalization in 1884, and the second in 1893, when he tried several times to drown himself in the bathtub. Schreber believed he was the victim of a plot of "soul murder"; that God was subjecting him to mysterious rays and voices designed to destroy his anatomy, turn him into a enslaved and abused woman, and control all his nerves.

In a poetic vision of the apocalypse, Schreber also believed that "the clocks of the world are running out", and that he was "the last real human being left". The people around him were only fakes, "fleeting-improvised men". In his spirit world, "magnificent porticos" sprang up suddenly outside his window, and then disappeared; and a single night "had the duration of centuries".

Even if you do not think that Dark City is that particularly great or anything, you must at least agree with what a friend of mine said of it: "I'd like to see it again though. I don't think it's proufound in any real sense, but it is well made and some of the shots in the city is comparable to the best stuff I've seen." This is the sort of sentiment that'll turn Dark City into one of the year's best sci-fi movies, especially in a year dominated by the collective stupidity of the likes of Deep Impact, Lost In Space and Godzilla. Like I wrote in my original review a month ago, this film is destined for definite cult staus . . .


Copyright © August 1998  James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page



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