Dark City

Dark City

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If cinema is a medium of imagination, Aussie director Alex Proyas belongs in the first division. His visual daring compliments a stylistic design that is reminiscent of The City Of Lost Children and a Forties gothic nightscape. What he does here is juggle genres and lop the dead cells from the brains of old cliches.

Aliens are with us. Or are they? Do we exist? Can memory be manipulated and altered? Can a man awake naked in a bath and be wanted by the police for six murders and know nothing - not his name, not his wife's face, not the reason for his fear?

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A humanoid civilisation that is dying somewhere in space sends a raiding party to Earth to seek the souls of man so that its beings can steal them and survive, recreating a city of darkness in the pitiless universe. These hairless beings have the ability to will objects to move and change the identity of sleeping mortals.

To explain the plot would tangle your head in knots. Its complexity may be overwrought. No matter. The excitement is in the treatment. The story dances to another tune as characters search for a reality that will hold them to the ground. This is Kafka in the galaxy, with an infusion of Mervyn Peake.

Rufus Sewell plays the man in the bath, the alleged murderer, whose memories have been ransacked. William Hurt plays the detective, who recognises that certainty is an illusion, like so much else. Jennifer Connelly plays the wife, who has an indelible beauty and a desperate desire. Kiefer Sutherland overplays the shrink, who helps the aliens in their souls search, only to realise too late that they represent evil beyond belief.

The film inhabits that place you think you recognise, a noir pastiche sci-fi designer gloryhole, where the cut price miracle is a Saturday night babe with Tuesday morning eyes. Nothing is as nothing was. The guys from Somewhere Else have the now of NOW sussed. There's no explanation for antilogic, no escape from the power of The Other.

Proyas is a writer/director to cherish. He might have tested his talent on pop videos and opened his cine career with The Crow, but Dark City is so full of ideas they spill over. It is not tidy, it's inspired. Don't stop to make sense of things. A maverick with style beats $100million of computer-generated toys any day.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Film noir plotting meets a fiendish science fiction underworld in an extravagant fantasy.
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Director: Alex Proyas

Writer: Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs, David S Goyer

Starring: Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Richard O'Brien, Ian Richardson, Bruce Spence, Colin Friels, John Bluthal, Mitchell Butel, Melissa George

Year: 1998

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia / USA

Festivals:

BIFF 2017

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If you like this, try:

Brazil
The City Of Lost Children
Mimic