Watched Children of Men in the cinema the other night, which is a splendid film, right up my street with its chaotic, dystopian vision of the near future. Based in 2027 Britain, in a world where the human race has been inexplicably infertile since 2009, it tells the story of a woman who, again inexplicably, has become pregnant, except unfortunately for her she is an illegal immigrant and therefore must be kept safe from the government and other factions. I’ll give nothing away, but if you like the genre you’ll love this film. It’s the sort of film you finish watching and then say “blimey”, but not because you were shocked and awed, but because it gets you thinking so much.
It joins a number of films that are based in post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian Britain which are all on my list of favourites, namely:
- Nineteen Eighty Four – the classic that everyone knows and was probably at the very least forced to study at school. Britain is part of one of three superstates in the world and the government, modelled on extreme communism, rules using massive surveillance, propaganda and disinformation, convincing its citizens that they live in bountiful, victorious times, when in fact they live a squalid extistence in a shattered country.
- Brazil – a semi-parody of 1984, in which Britain’s government rules using fear of terrorism and massive beaurocracy in a completely dysfunctional world. Terry Gilliam does an excellent job of taking the mick out of 1984 whilst at the same time worrying the audience to death with uncanny similarities to real life.
- Threads – another well known production which deals with nuclear war on Britain in the 1980s, specifically the lead up to a nuclear strike on Sheffield, the strike itself and its aftermath going on for 13 years after the attack. It’s very grisly, pulls no punches and the plight of the protagonist and all around her just gets worse and worse as the film goes on. Needless to say that there is no happy ending.
- V for Vendetta – a recent release in which mid-21st Century Britain is ruled by a tyrannical fascist government which rules its citizens using a police state, fear of terrorism and supression of arts, media and other “objectional materials”. There are many echoes of Nineteen Eighty Four with a very disturbing preface which does nothing less than smack you around the chops with the present-day “war on terrorism”. There’s a nice touch where they’ve used the actor who played the protagonist in Nineteen Eighty Four to play the tyrannical “High Chancellor” in this film.
- 28 Days Later – zombie horror film in which 2002 Britain has been infested with a terrifying virus and has been abandoned. The story follows the attempts of a group of uninfected people to survive. There’s a sequel currently in production, but since it’s being done by a different director it remains to be seen as to how good it will be. I’ve heard that it involves Americans saving our sorry asses again, where would we be without them?
- Reign of Fire – early/mid 21st Century Britain is a derelict wasteland after a species of fire breathing dragon takes over the world and burns it to a crisp. The story follows a group of survivors who seek to destroy the only male dragon. Another scary vision of an abandoned, shattered Britain.
There are many other films in the genre, but all based elsewhere, mostly in the United States. Noteworthy examples include Blade Runner, The Day After, Equilibrium, Escape from New York (a bit silly, but reminiscent of the Bexhill refugee camp in Children of Men) and of course the classic Soylent Green.