In 1927, Fritz Lang blended science fiction with fantasy in his silent epic Metropolis; in 1985, Terry Gilliam synthesized our minds with a maze of bureaucracy and air ducts in Brazil; in 1991, Steven Soderbergh gave us Kafka, with the writer’s frantic search for knowledge through the riddle of the Castle. All three of these masterpieces explored humanity, crippled and imprisoned by the State, through the eyes of a free man who accidentally lifts the curtain and spies the wizard.
Yet, one year before The Matrix posed the ultimate questions of reality in 1999, little known Alex Proyas directed something much better, without the need of a trilogy. Proyas employed the greatest characteristics of all four aforementioned films, while using a philosophy rather than an ideology to produce Dark City.
Within a nameless labyrinthine metropolis, John Murdock (performed to paranoid perfection by Rufus Sewell) wakes to the scene of a murder. He is frightened and remembers nothing, not even his own name. After a mysterious phone call by an ever-breathless Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland), Murdock flees from a band of inexplicable beings known only as “the Strangers,” who use the dead as vessels and seek the enigma that is the human soul.
Today, a fascination with fast action and slow dialogue plague the otherwise exciting movie-going experience. Proyas defies this status quo by blending film noir with the dismal dystopias of science fiction. What results is something from a nightmare: a grim, albeit imaginative portrayal of human existence where the most basic existential questions are explored… Who am I? Where did I come from? Why?
Dark City is a fascinating, invigorating and refreshing journey. But, above all, it is a quest for truth.