Losing my heart to Dark City
Falling in love isn’t necessarily an altogether pleasant experience. At least not if the object for your affection is a book or a movie. When you’ve read the last page in the book, when the text credits start to roll, you know there’s no return. It’s over, irreversibly over. And you’re thrown into the void where nothing else is even remotely interesting. You have nowhere else to go.
When I was a child the solution was simple: I played it again right away. I remember distinctively how devastated I was the first time I had finished the (at that point) Foundation trilogy. My only consolation was to start from the beginning again. I knew the twists, but I could still enjoy the ride.
Nowadays this condition doesn’t occur quite as often. Maybe I’m a little bit more jaded. I often get enthusiastic about movies I watch, but not to the extent that I can’t consider watching anything else after them.
But once in a while I feel the same old surge of love. It happened to me the other night as I watched Dark City, a science fiction movie from 1998, which has escaped me until now. It wasn’t a day too early that I watched it.
As the title implies, there isn’t much of sunshine in this film. It begins in the darkest possible way where a man wakes up alone in a hotel room. He has lost his memory and finds out that he’s wanted for murders. Soon he’s on the run from the police as well as from something else. On his search for the truth he encounters a scientist who claims to be his psychologist. He seems to know something. But is he a friend or a fiend?
I honestly don’t want to give away much more than that of the story. A first time viewer might find the film a little confusing and hard to get a grip on for the first half hour or so. (Actually this made the producers insist on including a voice-over right at the start. If you ask me I don’t think it helps the viewer in the process of “getting it”. It’s just ugly and annoying and I can understand why fans of this film have chosen to hold their hands over their ears during this little speech at repeated viewings.) But don’t let the confusion let you down. You will get the full picture, eventually, in due time. Relax and enjoy the sceneries and the atmosphere while you’re putting the pieces together.
It’s inevitable to compare this to some other classics in the genre. The Matrix comes at mind, but mind you – Dark City came out the year before the first movie in the series, so if there’s any influence to speak of, it should logically be Dark City that has influenced The Matrix, not the other way around. The Truman Show from the same year also feels like a remote cousin.
The third association is Inception, which came out twelve years later. While Inception has a multiple times bigger budget and probably access to a lot of computer technology for the special effects that wasn’t invented in the late 90s, I wouldn’t say that Dark City has anything to be ashamed of. Whatever it may lack in raw computer power, it compensates in style.
Nothing can fill me with joy and wonder and excitement the way that a great science fiction movie can. So why do I bother to watch anything else? The question came to my mind after finishing Dark City.
I was an empty vessel, lost in space. Where next?
Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998) My rating: 5/5