dystopian cinema

LEDA CATUNDA, Japanese Lake, 1986, acrylic on canvas and nylon, 130x250cm
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By WALNICE NOGUEIRA GALVÃO*

Politically notable films belie the irrelevance of allegory in dealing with dystopia and apocalypse

Masterful is If the wind drops (2020), rare Armenian film directed by Nora Martirozyan, an Armenian living in France. It has an Armenian cast, except for the French protagonist. The plot is located in a tiny country nestled in the Caucasus, called Nagorno-Karabakh, survivor of a civil war that tore it apart for three years, between 1991 and 1994. science fiction dystopian, discovers that it is all true, that is, that the country exists, although without recognized geopolitical status, and that no one has heard of that war because it coincided with the Balkan conflicts that fragmented the former Yugoslavia. One more allegory...

In the capital, there is a deactivated airport that is waiting for a license from international entities to start operating again, and the French auditor who arrives from abroad becomes aware of the conditions in the country to give his report. Hence the plot. Intriguing is the boy who crosses the scene at all times, carrying a bottle of water in each hand, which he sells by the glass. The film is amazingly beautiful, always enigmatic, and tries to decipher the conditions of life in such a place, with such harsh memories and scars. parallels with Bacurau impose themselves, because if there is a small country there that is not on the map, here there is a small city that not so hidden powers have decided to erase from the map.

Since we are on the dystopian plane, it costs nothing to see the very interesting Don't look up (2021). Snubbed by the Oscars, as Academy members must not have been happy to see such an accurate portrayal, it is a scathing satire of the Trump era and his legacy of fake news, obscurantism, scoundrel, stupidity and anti-democratic truculence.

A pair of astronomers warn of a comet on its way to Earth on a collision course and face mockery, demoralization and the usual attacks of denialism. It should be noted that the two protagonists are deglamorized: they are not well dressed, nor well groomed, nor are they in fashion. The President of the Republic, played by the great Meryl Streep, is a caricature: in addition to looking like a piranha, she only thinks about being re-elected and has no idea what they are talking about. She nominated a horrible son – as horrible as she is, and remembering other children of other presidents – as head of the Civil House, where he enjoys mobilizing the powers of repression and espionage at her disposal. Both, mother and son, of the greatest impudence.

It's the first time we've seen the long-term reach of Donald Trump's policies on screen. Television presenters are not prepared for serious things, and they are also of the greatest disgrace: the perfidious discredit of science and knowledge leads to this. And so on. And if the spectator expects a good solution, he may give up. The film is not optimistic, although it persists in the caustic humor.

Here we meet Mark Rylance, from Waiting for the barbarians, on paper suited to its greatness. His character is a synthesis of Silicon Valley tycoons, who became billionaires creating the greatest totalitarian apparatus in human history. And always with that aura of pure scientists and scientists, convinced that they are in the false neutrality of the algorithm, insisting that they have nothing to do with the results and the consequences for people. So we reach the apex of inequality, with these tools prepared to make the rich even richer and the poor even poorer.

Films as politically remarkable as these belie the irrelevance of allegory in dealing with dystopia and the apocalypse. A task for professional critics, it would be the case of having the patience to watch a huge amount of vampire movies, the living dead, science fiction or fantastic, not to mention those of superheroes who slip into these others or so they intend to. Who knows, then, one could think about the possibility of risking some hypotheses about its proliferation. They certainly infantilized the public, but, in addition to the attack they implied on cinema as an instrument of reflection on the contemporary world, they may be precisely through allegories and symbols expressing some of the deepest concerns that sting us.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue).


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