It seems like there’s been a big growth in dystopian films in the past few years, from The Hunger Games to an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Unfortunately for this post, the only film I’ve seen from this collection was the first Hunger Games. However, I would speculate that the popularity of dystopian film has two effects: 1) an increase in the production of dystopian literature and 2) a greater emphasis on advanced technology and eye-popping visceral imagery in that literature.
In the first instance, the film and book industry seem inextricably linked, since most of these films are adaptations of novels. I can’t think of a highly successful original dystopian film since The Matrix trilogy, released in 1999 through 2003. But I’m not sure there’s an easy causal relationship between the two. Successful dystopian literature is adapted into film, and the popularity of dystopian film perhaps encourages more authors to dabble in the dystopian genre. I think the bigger question is why there has been a sudden proliferation of dystopian fiction in general. Some of the most popular dystopian literature from the 20th century came in direct response to World War II and the Cold War and dealt with themes such as totalitarian states and nuclear holocaust. I would expect recent issues like climate change, religious conflict and government surveillance to influence contemporary dystopian works, but to my knowledge these themes aren’t terribly prevalent in recent dystopian films. Perhaps this trend can be traced to the fact that many of these films are adaptations of young adult books, which tend to focus more on themes of authority and identity. Perhaps the majority of the movie-going public prefers diversion rather than current events at the theater, while those interested in the issues of the day will seek out literature that deals with these concerns.
Entertainment on the big screen typically differs from entertainment on the page, with films relying more heavily on visual effects, elaborate costumes and breathtaking scenery. The Hunger Games looks impressive on film, in part due to Suzanne Collins’ creation of a nation divided into distinct groups, customs and physical appearances, set against the backdrop of the technological wizardry of the capital city and the Hunger Games battlefields. Writers who have ambitions of seeing their book as a film must adopt similar devices in hopes of capturing a larger audience. Even Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (my last dystopian read), relies on themes of physical health beauty and the explosion of social media into a constant stream of videos and images to characterize the futuristic world. A television series based on the novel is currently in development. In contrast, many 20th century dystopian novels appear much starker by comparison, and the film adaptations (see 1984 and A Clockwork Orange) that exist don’t quite live up to the authors’ descriptions of their societies. Naturally, a reciprocal effect exist here as well. While the success of dystopian films may influence the growth and visual style of the corresponding literary genre, the fact that modern film technology can faithfully depict increasingly elaborate futuristic worlds creates greater opportunities for authors transitioning to film. Even for authors who aspire solely to publication without greater aspirations of silver screen success, more vivid depictions of dystopian worlds in film surely serves as an influence in their creative process.
Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey
Scribe Publishing Company (November 4, 2014)
About the Author:
Greg Hickey was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1985. After graduating from Pomona College in 2008, he played and coached baseball in Sweden and South Africa. He is now a forensic scientist, endurance athlete and award-winning writer. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Lindsay.
About the Book:
In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity. Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence. With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony.
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