Thursday, 7 November 2013

Dystopiarama - Zardoz (1974)

Zardoz, the 1974 sci-fi/fantasy film is another strange entry in this sub category, but again nonetheless, it depicts a bizarre future time period.

The film actually stars people I have heard of, in the form of Sean Connery (who spends the entire film wearing, as he himself stated was "a red nappy, thigh length boots, a pony tail and a zapata moustache") Charlotte Rampling and John Alderton (cast against "type" in the role of a bizarre and effeminate man) , and it makes good use of these stars while the surreal and sometimes disturbing storyline plays out.

In the future of 2293 AD, the Earth has been reduced to an almost medieval landscape (it is never really explained why, although it is hinted that there was some sort of global war) with tribes of "Brutals" living in the remains of the former world. One tribe of these people, called "the Exterminators" are favoured by the god Zardoz, who appears as a giant floating stone head and demands that the exterminators kill brutals in order to stop them from repopulating the earth as they once did. In return for killing people, and providing Zardoz with grain, the exterminators receive weapons and ammunition.
One of the Exterminators, named Zed, stows away in one of the grain shipments and rides the stone head back to its point of origin, where en route, he accidentally kills a rather strange man who calls himself "Arthur Frayn".
When the head lands, Zed finds himself in a surreal world occupied by people who refer to themselves as "Eternals", humans with highly developed mental powers, who live in a society of total democracy and equality, who devote their eternal lifespans to developing and maintaining human knowledge under the custodianship of a being referred to as "The Tabernacle".
Zed quickly finds that not is all it seems amongst these people, as their supposedly perfect society is just as fraught with infighting as it is in the outside world, with a group of staunch conservatives seeking to maintain the status quo of their society, and other smaller groups seeking to make changes, such as actually allowing people to die, or allowing them to explore the outside world and learn of any changes that have occurred while they have been locked away in "The vortex" (there are actually several vortexes, all of which are areas which are kept shielded from the outside world by an invisible and impenetrable force field)

During his time amongst the immortals, Zed learns much about both them and himself, including that his being there was part of a long term plan to liberate the Eternals from their never ending state of boredom and stagnation, having reached the limits of their capabilities long ago and being unable to progress further due to the dictats of the Tabernacle.

Zardoz is a wonderfully surreal film, the likes of which we will never see again. Its bizarre blend of science fiction and fantasy is skillfully used to tell a story which, in essence is about living life itself and coping with and accepting change.
The surreal imagery and hippy leanings of the Eternals contrast wonderfully with Zeds harsh upbringing and lifestyle, with his simple thoughts belying his hidden intelligence.

A definite watch id say!

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