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Mmmm….Soylent Green…tasty! November 17, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Global Warming.
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Fascinating watching Soylent Green on TCM digital. And for those who haven’t seen it, and don’t know the central conceit – well click away now folks.

Firstly as the cliche has it, it’s much more of it’s time than of any potential future (and based on Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!). Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson in his 101st role. A group of elderly Europeans who uncover the awful truth about the oceans and just what that means about the food supplies. A black chief of police. Sexual politics that are one step removed from – well, from Planet of the Apes to be honest, another Heston classic. Breton style hats and cravats predominate, making it look curiously like the mid-1980s on Grafton street.

The score by Fred Myron is interesting combining funky jazz, and weird burbling electronica that sounds a little like Can, a little like Neu and a whole lot like the roster of artists who would later be on WARP such as early Aphex Twin, B12 and Black Dog.

Secondly the depiction of a world in the throes of catastrophic ecological collapse from pollution and overpopulation (no climate change here, but no airconditioning either) varies between good and not so good. The waste reclaimation trucks which bring people from the voluntary euthanasia centres (Your favourite colour sir for the euthanasia room? Orange. Your favourite music? Classical, light classical – cue Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and a collage of grainy film of running streams, sunsets and unspoilt landscapes) are fairly well done. Central Park filled with abandoned cars in which people live, and a pervasive smog somewhat less so.

The general tenor is not dissimilar to Silent Running (even more depressing in it’s own way) where the last plants and forests are tended to on spaceships by Bruce Dern. And each is a crie-de-couer from the early 1970s about the state of the planet. Now of course the idea that by 2022 we’d see total ecological collapse seems unlikely, at least from the standpoint of 2006, but in 1972 that was a good 50 years away so perhaps one can forgive them that. In any event the scale of the problem has changed, we seemingly can do both less and more damage to the planet simultaneously.

When I last saw it, probably around 1975 or so, I have to be honest it made quite an impression. I was surprised to realise that I remembered lines. Not great lines it has to be said, but hey, I was younger then.

And yet when we get to the idea at the heart of it, that the dead are brought to plants which mulch them into the eponymous Soylent Green (and what was Soylent Red made out of if Green is humans?) it’s oddly difficult to get too worked up about it. Sure, as the elderly Europeans mutter about it being ‘expedient’ and necessary to bring the information to the ‘Council of Nations’ – one wonders what period of history they’re echoing – and all who discover it are deeply shocked including a city politician and a priest who pretty much go off the rails at the bad news about what’s on the menu. Yet despite Heston’s impassioned cry about ‘next they’ll be breeding us like cattle’ something about the movie deadens the impact. Probably it’s the production values, but perhaps not. It’s not that one would be sanguine about such a state of affairs, instead that it seems almost like an inevitability, like the logical outcome of such a corrupted world. Although as someone asks, why Soylent Green?

Speaking of dystopian futures I haven’t seen Children of Men, but fully intend to do so when it returns on DVD, but having seen the trailers for C of M I’d like to see Soylent Green reworked in more talented hands. Or perhaps it won’t work, perhaps we’re that bit more cynical. Pollution and overpopulation, it’s been coming a long time. Euthanasia on a mass scale? Logical really. De facto cannibalism? Unpleasant, sure, but them’s the breaks.

“Soylent Green is people!” as Heston shouts at the end of the movie …and the real problem is that some might ask what exactly is the problem?

Comments»

1. Eagle - November 19, 2006

Anyone who ventures into a pub in Dublin on a Saturday night might think the Soylent Green future has arrived such is the over-crowding.

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2. WorldbyStorm - November 19, 2006

And just what are the secret ingredients in those “new” versions of Guinness?

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3. Eagle - November 20, 2006

Guinness goes “green”, is that what you’re thinking?

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