THX1138 = Most Allegorical Film Ever?
THX 1138 (1971) is based on an earlier short George Lucas did in 1967, but he made the ’71 version into the most allegorical film ever, where words, actions and things have a deeper meaning. The film short has the same setting and tone, that of a dystopian future and an oppressive world. The people in this future world are bored and lifeless, literally kept docile by government prescribed drugs.
The film opens with a trailer for Buck Rogers, which is from the 30s. The future of Buck Rogers is much different from that in THX1138. It is lighter, happier, and full of energy. Buck Rogers zips around like Flash Gordon or any other comic book hero, and the world contrasts the one shown in the movie.
After the trailer scene, the movie opens with a scene at a sterile factory. THX is one cog in that factory and he looks completely indifferent about his repetitive job. THX is played by Robert Duvall and he does a good job. He doesn’t actually get to stretch himself until later on, where he shows some emotion.
THX isn’t feeling very well and he looks quite depressed for most of the film’s beginning. He uses a government-sponsored “confession” booth, a place to express your problems, a device that has replaced religion and actual discourse in the future. He confesses that he slipped up at work and tells the automated confessional how he has been feeling lately. The robotic voice re-assures him, but comes off as apathetic and inhuman. I really like this scene on a deeper level and it works well to lead into the rest of the movie.
The environment of THX1138 is really well-done. Everything is white, sterile, and bleak. All the characters are passive and have their heads shaved. The television plays comedies and news, but no one laughs anymore. THX just sits there apathetically and looks bored with life. Violence, sex, and alarming news all run together, but they seem like second-nature to THX. Later, we find out that THX can’t function at his job without his government-prescribed drugs, which may be a comment on industry or the growing tech sector. Either way, THX can’t cope with the stress at work. I hope the business sector of today never gets to that point.
Oppression is literally represented in the movie, by drugs, the system, and the government. “They” literally watch everybody, even in their own homes. “They” are almost everywhere, and have advanced so much that “they” have forced drugs on the people. The dangerous jobs people have is one reason for the drugs. The other is to keep them docile, passive, and obedient. Either way, the movie is telling us that high amounts of technological development isn’t always good.
The jargon in this movie is incredibly overwhelming and hilarious. There’s a five-minute sequence in the rehab facility where THX is mind-controlled by two nameless, faceless operators. The operators just spout endless amounts of jargon as they try to figure out what the fudge is wrong with THX. They are inhuman and lost in technology, unable to actually reason about the human condition. These operators may as well be machines.
George Lucas throws in endless concepts like inflation and religion. A state-sponsored deity has replaced God in this movie. The problem with this movie is that it never really settles on any one concept, merely content with being dystopian and moody with all of them. One of the characters in the movie is a hologram, but has no more understanding than anyone else, and he wanders around wondering what’s going on. He wonders about the planet and the environment, which is clogged with lasers, genetics, and hyperventilometers.
All in all, this is a good movie, but is not really that engaging. It contains great concepts, but has a lot of them jammed together. It has great characters, but none of them really shine through individually, which is probably the point of the movie. In the fight for human individuality, THX1138 gives a depressing example.
George Lucas directing Robert Duvall