Monday, 4 November 2013

Dystopiarama - THX 1138 - Directors Cut (1971/2004)

Its not often I see the phrase "directors cut" mentioned in association with one of George Lucas's films and think "ooh!", although that said, I'm one of the few that quite likes what hes done with the original star wars movies, well to a certain extent (fuck you Jar Jar!).

So yeah, THX 1138 was George Lucas's first "proper" film as a professional director, and was based on his earlier short film "Electric Labyrinth - THX 1138 4EB" (which is included as a bonus feature on the directors cut DVD/Blu-Ray).

Set in some unspecified future period, of which the film makes no attempts or efforts to explain whatsoever it stars Robert Duvall as the titular THX 1138, a "drone" worker who lives in a society where there are no real individuals, and society is controlled according to the strict dictats of a computerised economical system, and where the law is enforced by silver faced and extremely amiable police robots.
The people of this bizarre future are kept in a permanent state of sedation as they mindlessly go about their assigned and extremely rigorously micromanaged work duties, with failure to take their state prescribed medications being a crime.
The state also ruthlessly enforces strict controls over individuals private lives, for example, each citizen is billeted to live in spartan accommodations with a roommate, sexual activity of any sort between people is completely banned, and the only entertainments allowed to the citizens revolve around watching banal "entertainment" holographic propaganda (one scene features THX watching a pornographic hologram while a machine masturbates him, this is the only permitted sexual release afforded to the people of this bizarre future).

THX  however, along with his room mate, a female designated "LUH 3417" have ceased taking their state prescribed medications, and have embarked on a sexual relationship, however the omnipresent observers note this and soon enough they both begin to run afoul of the law, especially so when THX finds himself unable to concentrate at his mundane job assembling police robots, which almost causes a nuclear accident.

The film itself is a rather surreal one to watch, as the bizarre environment and emotionally stunted behaviour of the characters can become somewhat confusing to the casual viewer, a matter on which one of the characters (SEN 5241 - played by Donald Pleasence) actually muses upon in the films final act, as he ponders why there appear to be gaps in the fabric of the society whilst standing in front of a picture of Jesus (named OMM 0910 in the film, representing the official religion of the state, whom citizens "worship" by entering phone booth like chambers and telling the picture their woes while a series of pre recorded responses offer empathy and understanding, but provide no advice or assistance. All conversations with OMM are recorded and anyone found to be in violation of any law is arrested).

As this is the Directors Cut, and following in his tradition of "doing up" his older films, this version of the movie restores some scenes cut from the original theatrical release, alongside newly shot scenes and scenes "improved" by use of modern CGI. 

Make no mistake about it, first time viewers will more than likely not understand the films content and will miss some of the references made by characters featured, but, when viewed "in the proper manner", THX 1138 is a skillfully crafted piece of nihilistic cinema, and Duvall does a wonderful job of playing a man whose brain has been "switched on" for the first time in his life and caused him to question and rebel against his surroundings.

This may not be a film to all peoples tastes, and can be considered to be rather boring in some places, but I quite like it.

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