by Dave Yorkshire
Spoiler alert: Do not read this review before watching the film, even though I have tried to keep the biggest plot twist out of the review.For the past twenty years, there have been very few great films. What do I mean by great film? I mean any film that has that ability to transport its audience seamlessly into the internal logic of its secondary world of hyperreality, while simultaneously demanding of its audience fundamental questions about existence. In this, it will blend drama with philosophy, scenery with art, dialogue with music. This requires a great scriptwriter, great actors, a great crew and a great director to bring them all together. Metropolis has it; Gone with the Wind has it; Night of the Hunter has it; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has it; so too does the 1998 Alex Proyas film Dark City. Why then have so few people heard of Dark City?
There are several answers to this question. The first is marketing. As we see from the publicity posters for the film, Dark City was marketed as a horror film, when it simply isn't.
Secondly, the producers completely ruined the film screened in cinemas by adding a voiceover by Kiefer Sutherland that completely gives away the film's mystery and revelations that unravel during the film's denouement. To give you an impression of how bad this is, imagine The Usual Suspects having a voiceover at the beginning by Kevin Spacey in which he says, "And by the way, what Agent Kujan does not realise is that I am Keyser Söze."
Thirdly, and related to this point and the very first point I made in this article, no great films can be made anymore because the audience is simply too dumbed-down to relate to anything of intellectual quality. A film must make profit and therefore appeal to the increasingly befuddled masses. This brings me to my last point, which will be addressed throughout the article.
The only way to do this is to pitch a film at such a universal level that it cannot explore any profundity that relates to a particular people. It may gloss over themes of identity, but in ways that all can appreciate and understand. Yet inevitably, in doing so, the audience is only understanding the artificiality the film makers have created.
There is no authenticity, for authenticity would only be understood by the few and not by the many, for authenticity varies from people to people and imitation is just that, inauthentic, phoney. We are thus left with banal stereotypes, stereotyping being, in any case according to the ideologues, prejudice and bigotry.
The ideology imprinted on many of these texts often contradicts this, but cultural Marxism and commercialism have always been strange bedfellows, and one must remember the contradictory nature of those in charge of Hollywood.
In any case, Marxian communism has always been funded by capitalists, and the ultimate goal of both is the same: to create a globalised standardised world of consumer-slaves ruled by an oligarchal elite in charge of both government and economy. As we know, however, from the rhetoric in both media and academia, there is simultaneously an extreme anti-White-European message being continually pumped out. In contrast to other ethnic identities that are given the superficial gloss, any exploration of White identities is dishonest and invariably negative, unless, as in films like Blood Diamonds and Gran Torino, the White heroic narrative terminates in the death of the White hero for the advancement of persons of colour.
Dark City is a film for white people - and here I mean people who are physically pale. You will see what I mean as you read on. The cast is virtually 100% white, with the odd black face here and there only as extras - and what is more, the only one to be briefly focused on, is merely carrying out a menial function as a train guard. The film is that rarest of things in the postmodern age: an honest and deep appraisal of white identity and its relationship to postmodernity. In doing so, postmodernity itself is brought into question, as well as the ideologues and social "scientists", through the vehicle of science fiction.
Indeed, the film begins as a mystery thriller in which Rufus Sewell (who now stars in The Man in the High Castle) awakes in a bath to find he has no memory of who he is, aside from vague childhood memories of a place called Shell Beach, and is then called on his old-fashioned dial-face telephone by Kiefer Sutherland, who informs him he was part of a failed experiment and his memory has been erased. Sutherland, who claims to be a doctor (we later find out he is called Dr Schreber), urges him to leave, as a group of men known as the Strangers will be coming for him. As he leaves, he sees a dead naked woman with spirals carved into her body and finds out his surname from the hotel lobby: Murdoch.
The Strangers themselves are very much based aesthetically on the eponymous vampire Nosferatu, which is apt, given it is, as the title suggests, always night in the unnamed city. The city itself is straight from Film noir, with obvious nods to Edward Hopper (see below), and suggests a date around the 1950s. It emerges that every twelve hours, the city then changes at the will of the Strangers, as they channel their thoughts through a machine beneath the city, a process they call tuning. Old buildings move position or are retracted, new buildings are erected, streets reconfigured: city planning in minutes.
The city's inhabitants are also given new identities by implanting new sets of memories in their brains when they are induced into comas during tuning. One poor couple are made wealthy, the husband going from meek factory drudge to arrogant company director, boasting of sacking one of his employees. This exposes the malleability of the masses and their acceptance of given roles without question. It also claims personality in the masses to be determined by societal roles and prior experiences. In doing so, the film is actually asking existential questions of its own audience.
The Strangers are a dying race, have a group consciousness, and believe their salvation lies in discovering what makes humans individuals - in other words, the secret of the soul itself. This is the reason they change people's memories, as a mass sociological experiment to find out how nurture determines the soul.
Murdoch, however, is a higher man, a natural aristocrat, who cannot be shaped by the memories imprinted on him nor by the social situations he is put in. Indeed, like the Strangers, he too can reshape society around him. Unlike the Strangers, however, he has an organic relationship to the masses, comes from them, and when he reshapes the city at the end, he creates an organic aesthetic in contrast to the Strangers' inorganic cityscape, creating sea and sun.
The Strangers are Other, and one cannot help but draw comparisons to our reality and to people who are Other within our reality, who are constantly reshaping and remoulding our reality and the people in it in unending sociological experimentation.
The references to parasites and vampires seem like knowing nods. Given the ethnicity of the Hollywood moguls, it is a wonder the film was ever distributed, even if it was not well-promoted. One of Proyas' collaborators David S. Goyer is also half-Jewish and tends towards that side of his ethnicity, and one cannot help but wonder if the film represented for him some sort of self-reflection. It is very much a They Live kind of film for Alt Righters, but without even the 'inter-racial buddy subplot' that gives that film a PC veneer. It culminates in the leader of the Strangers' (played by Ian Richardson) cry of "Shut it down!" How obvious do you want it?
Murdoch was originally destined to be the serial killer, but he instinctively rejected the false memories he was being fed at the beginning of the film. He thus does not behave like a serial killer, has not killed anyone, and the case Bumstead is investigating therefore makes no sense. His initial reaction is one of disbelief when Murdoch tells him his reality is a lie, with which we are all too familiar, before accepting the truth of his existence. It is his ability to question and reflect that saves him from being a mere Massenmensch to be manipulated and altered at the Strangers' whims.
Dark City is the film The Matrix pretends to be, both in general and for the Alt Right. It is a film that explores the subject of meaning through memory, both individual and group. Tradition comes from a group memory, race being the most primal group identity.
The Frankfurt School, among other neo-Marxists, like the Strangers, wished to 'free' us from tradition and thus from our racial memory. Like the characters in the film, this has left our masses confused and without real identity. And one notes in The Matrix that being freed from all forms of identity to become 'Neo' - 'the new' - is an intrinsic good within the film's internal morality.
In Dark City, throughout the film, it is increasingly inferred that the seaside idyll of Shell Beach is a product of Murdoch's own mind. References to this place appear around the city because Murdoch has willed them into being: billboards, postcards, train timetable destinations and so on - and in the end, he wills the place itself into being. This is why Murdoch is so dangerous to the Strangers; despite having no personal memory, he is creating anew, beyond the parameters of the city from the European racial memory, that which is ingrained in everyone's soul: the simple seaside town.
Originally published at Mjolnir Magazine
Dark City (The Director's Cut): Characterization, Symbolism, and Aesthetics