The Creation of Dystopian and Utopian Cities
In Modules 04 and 05 you saw video clips of the fictional films Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1923) and Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1992). The makers of these movies created futuristic urban landscapes that were sometimes utopian (perfect, idealistic), but mostly dystopian (unpleasant, totalitarian, environmentally degraded). It is important to note that even science fiction and fantasy says more about how we live today than how we will live in the future. As part of the additional reading for Module 05, I give you access to papers that I wrote about Sin City (Robert Rodriguez and Quintin Tarantino, 2005), A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006) and Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998). The first paper on Sin City, in particular with its focus on urban dreams and nightmares, helps inform some of the urban theory you are learning about in this class. The paper on A Scanner Darkly focuses on suburbia as a dystopian landscape. The other two papers create focus on film noire urban landscapes that are also about future dystopias. With this exercise, I want you to write a short essay on one of your favorite movies that depicts a dystopian and/or utopian urban landscape.
You may need to watch the movie more than once. Pay careful attention to where the action takes place, the representation of environments through the cameras eye, and the use of settings to support the development of the plot. Take notes so that you remember specific scenes and their content. You should talk about some of these in your essay. Look out for things like striking camera angles, subtle nuances of lighting, weather or props, particular changes in the setting or action.
Now you must think critically about what you have seen. Your essay should begin by summarizing the plot (no more than 2 sentences). Then describe the utopian and/or dystopian themes that the filmmaker uses as part of the story. How were characters emotions reflected in the landscapes depicted? How does the urban environment help create suspense or amusement? Discuss the possible motivations the filmmaker had for choosing the settings shown in the movie. Support your general arguments with specific examples from the movie. What is/are the point(s) of your films urban landscape (e.g. what are the morals or politics)? How do the utopian/dystopian spaces and places help the filmmaker make his/her point?
Now, tie the landscapes you have just described back in to some of the concepts weve talked about in class. There are many things you could relate gendered landscapes, spatial decentralization, anomie, spatial density, ecology, segregation, zoning, red-lining, a compliant labor force, the consumer ideal, fear and cityscapes, deviant behavior, the iron cage, ideal types, gemeinschaft and gesselschaft, biological metaphors, contractual environments, metanarratives, edge cities, privatopias, interdictory spaces. Obviously, you cannot go through all these concepts, but choose two or three as they relate to your chosen movie.
Finally, make some conclusions about how the imagined urban landscapes of your movie relate to real world urban contexts. And, as with the other exercises in the course, please keep your work to 500 words.
Harvey, David (1989). Time and space in the postmodern cinema in The Condition of Postmodernity, pp. 308-323. Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell.
Follow Rubric/Grammar is key.