Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Metropia": an oil-starved world in 2024, with the government driving people underground (It's "Metropolis II")

Another interesting film at Tribeca was the animated sci-fi politico thriller “Metropia”, directed by Tarik Saleh, from Sweden (but in English). The YouTube rental link ($6) is this:

Okay, the title reminds one of “Metropolis” and the look is comparable. In 2024, the world is past peak oil, and people have to use trains. In Europe, the Trexx Corporation has connected all the major cities (for Eurailpass indeed) with underground (“Chunnel”) trains that look like the LL Carnarsie line in New York. (It also reminds one of the looping Toronto subway car in the "Matrix" movies; imagine being sentenced for all eternity to live inside a subway tube in the afterlife.) But why? Roger (voice of Vincent Gallo) thinks he has it figured out. He hears voices, which the government claims is mental illness, but he (with the help of girl friend Nina (Juliette Lewis) discovers that the government has issued a shampoo (“it isn’t good for you”) that invades hair follicles with nanobots. So Roger keeps his head shaved, and his body is rather barren too (the animation is pretty effective with the rapidly attenuating hair on his legs – after all, he smokes). One could do something with this concept – what if, to the government’s dismay (or delight), the nanobots caused gradual epilation? (The nanobot idea occurred in the defunct “Jake 2.0” television series, remember.)

The government has spied on citizens in other ways, too. Since 1999, it has implanted hidden webcams in TV’s and PC’s, so it knows everything any has watched or done online since then. Does that remind one of the current debate over Facebook and privacy controls? But this is a world government, not a company controlled by a twenty-something (who would never use the shampoo as long as he still plans to rule the world).

He comes up with a plan that would scare security for major city metro systems, and he can even frame someone else. Nina has a great line when she shoots a “pig” – “He has lost his function.”

The characters are all conceived as coneheads, but still look “almost real”. There is real intimacy in the “animation”. The film is mostly in black and white, very effective, with some splotches of color (a device in “Schindler’s List”, remember). The underground works below Paris running the trains remind one of Metropolis, and even of the machine-dream gears in Lionsgate’s corporate trademark. (I wonder if Lionsgate would pick this film up – it probably would appeal to Summit Entertainment even more. Or how about Roadside Attractions (pun)?  There will be a bidding war over this little gem.  Right now imdb lists Tribeca as the theatrical distributor of record.)

Stellan and Alexander Skarsgaard appear in the film (as "voices").

I guess this film would be a hit at a "Libertarian Party" film festival, if there were one. Actually, The Washington Times should have fun reviewing this one.

The idea of a common Metro could inspire a common “Smart Card” for all transit systems in the world.

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