Posted by mark at February 22, 2004 08:02 PM
Went to see the 1936 adaptation of Wells' Things to Come at Tate Modern this afternoon. Wells evidently saw Things to Come as the modernist antidote to Metropolis' anti-science dystopia. It comes off as a hymn to Progress in which humanity's saviours are a masonic co-operative of scientists, mechnanics and engineers; their enlightened rationality will deliver humanity from the brigands and warlords who thrive upon conflict. Parts of the film were very much on the ruinationalist theme: Wells' vision of a thirty year war starting in 1940 included a Blitz-like destruction of Everytown (London). The sets - especially the war-gutted city and the reconstructed metropolis of 2036 - were astonishing feats of design. Question: why is this inspiring whereas today's cinematic giganticism is so depressing and flat? I think, it's because today's digital blockbusters are solely about Spectacle as opposed to Vision. Wells' vision was no doubt troubling and flawed, but it gave the film something for which no amount of pixel-crunching can substitute.