Dystopian Movies

Look at the following photos (click on  the PDF file below) and decide which one best suits the excerpt you read by Paul Auster.  Be prepared to explain why (that is: explain your choice of the photo).



Then look at the following video clip.  Pau Auster’s wife Siri Hustvedt, talks about consumerism and propagandaIn what way are they linked?  Can you answer some of the questions she is posing?  She raises some interesting issues and I would love you to be prepared to discuss them in class.  Your answers will certainly pave the way to our analysis of "1984" and "Animal Farm".

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59 Responses to Dystopian Movies

  1. anonimo says:

    I think that the most appropriate image is the fourth one where Clive Owen-Theo is battling for a sign of hope. When the humanity hasn’t any hope, because the human beings can no more give birth to children, becomes angry and easily governed by police and central powers as happens in “Country of Last Things”.

    Propaganda and consumerism are linked because when we wear or use a certain object and even other people do the some we are a sort of advert of that object, so if someone wants to be like us he/she use that object too, and we create repetition and homologation.

    Consume influences our reality because is the only thing we know, it’s difficult for us even imagine a different world, so I think that a way to resist to consumings is to create and offer a different way of seeing reality

    Francesca Cazorzi

  2. MicheleDB says:

    When I read the post, before looking at the images, I had, in my mind, a precisely scheme that mirrored exactly what Paul Auster wrote “In the country of last things”. So seeing the photos I remained a little surprised, however in my opinion the photo that better suits the extract is the third because is the unique that has in the foreground only a lonely person. Moreover it represents the nihility and the solitude of a singol man against a (dystopic) society. In that picture the buildings are probably the symbols of the decisiveness of the potent and also of the motionlessness of the people that undergo the decisions. The man in the middle is enlight because is the only person in that city that knows the truth.

  3. MicheleDB says:

    Consumerism is linked to propaganda because, through propaganda and repetition, people think something is true, is nice, and you have to obtain it. if a crowd is conditioned by the same thing and all the people of the corwd think in the same way, so they will buy the same object; in that way you can explain consumerism.

    How consumer culture influences the personality, the way people live and think? We feel accepted when we are homologated. Homologated people follow fashion, to follow fashion means to be a consumeristic person, so if you want to feel accepted you have to take part in the consumer culture.

    How it becames part of us? I don’t know, it is a process without a start (because it existed before the propaganda) but that is very deep-rooted in our culture.

    What it means to be able to resist of that visual and verbal culture? To be able to feel different, stranger and to be able to support the consequences of that choice.

  4. anonimo says:

    I’m confused. I would love to unite the second and the third immage.For me a person who lives in a dystopian society isn’t free; she/he can’t think and see what she7he wants.

    As Baudelaire said ”Devil moves the filaments that move us”. We are corrupted by civilisation, that drives our mind and so even our body. In a dystopian society we are puppets, we are bombarded by ideas that we make part of us. We listen them lots of time so that we believe in what we are listening. The second immage draws a clear painting of what circles us. Here we read: Watch tv, buy, consume, submit. This is the key word: in a totalitarian regime we have to submit us and do what the society wants.

    The consumerism becames part of us and it influences us thanks to propaganda. Every day we listen and see tha same things on tv, on magazine, on newspaper, when we are in the street there are even person that stops you and gives you a piece of paper with advertisement; and when we hear the same thing “over and over and over again” we begin to believe that they are true and that we have to adopt the advices and the directions that the others give us.


  5. anonimo says:

    In my opinion the fourth is the image best suits the Paul Auster’s idea of dystopia. Rich men have the control on the army and they decide others fate. People would be scared by this, as the men in the picture are scared by soldiers, who don’t do theirs duty, guarding the people. They prevent any possible rebellion by poor people, tired by oppression. In “In the Country of Last Things “ people are guarded by armed police, as in the picture; and an other coincidence is the background: both, image and book, are set in a decadent city, surrounded by rubble.

    Siri Hustvedt, Paul Auster’s wife, talks about our reality, founded on the consumerism. If she has to reply to this blog, her choice about the best image of dystopia would be the second. A frenetic life in a city where all is define by strict rules (“work 8 hours – sleep 8 hours – play 8 hours”) and a big notice with the word “CONSUME” which everybody must see and follow.

    Until the society grows up, people let anything to the government, and are sure its would be done for the better of the life. “Consumerism” is possible only in a positive conditions. Nowadays we have the opposite; many state are entered in the recession and their have economic crisis. The consumerism is a milestone for the economy of a state. To be worry because our reality is founded on it, is an exaggeration made by authors as Orwell (1984), lived during a extremely tense world. I don’t thing consumerism wouldn’t be a possible danger in the future, but certainly, it isn’t now.

    Nicola Truant

  6. anonimo says:

    I think the second photo best suits the excerpt taken by Paul Auster, because it represents my idea of a dystopian world, that is a planet in which you are told what you have to do and you can’t rebel, because the government controls you. The photo is significant in this way and the signals situated along the road enforce the sense of oppression, to me.

    Siri Hustvedt claims propaganda is a particular kind of language, used and repeated by media to convince people about truth that is not true, actually. Propaganda is linked to consumerism because can be the basis also of the underhand message of “buying, buying, buying”, as if it was a drug. I think the only “weapon” we have is our power of thinking… We should learn to distinguish subliminal messages and become aware of the reason why we buy something, in this way… Consumerism is like a fever, and perhaps we could recognize its “virus” in propaganda. But, as Siri asks, what can we do to stop this kind of phenomenon? I think she’s right when she says people are not aware of being victims.

    Giulia Marcassa

  7. anonimo says:

    I agree with Simone: I think that the third and the second picture are the two that best suite Paul Auster’s view. The third make you feel a sense of anguish: this child is in front of something so tall and scary that we can imagine him astonished. The building is the society that uses and traps us. The second is the image of an ideal society (for what concern who has the power): everything is controlled and precisely planned, every people is conformed, except for the tyrants obviously. Everything is already written, but the difference is that wasn’t written by God but by somebody who has the presumption to be more and better than God.

    It reminds me of a movie and a book: “The Truman Show” and “1984”. But it reminds me also of the “Big Brother”, the reality show. Are we going to live in this way? There will be a tyrant one day who will control us as well? If so, I hope I will be dead for that time.

    “If you repeat something over and over and over again, people begin to believe it’s true”. I thing that this is one of the most true thinks that I have ever heard. For many centuries people has been used by the government because they are illiterate. Their primary needs are to eat and have a job that guarantees them the minimum to be alive. If someone promise them bread or a job (with money or some kind of pay) in exchange for a vote, they will do it.

    This happens because of the society: it will never stop to exploit the people. And the people want to have their bread and their jobs, no more. It’s a circular movement, this implies that is very hard to stop it.

    Elena Poles

  8. anonimo says:

    12 Perin Marco

  9. PaulAuster2008 says:

    I like Francesco’s expression “unbridled consumerism”, to translate the Italian expression “consumismo sfrenato!”.

    So the points made by Siri Hustvedt has had impact on us all: consumer culture influences the personalities, the way we live and think. The interesting question she raises (“How to we resist the visual and verbal culture of consumerism?”) is tough to answer and highly subjective. It would be interesting to know what you think the best ways to fight back consumersim could be. Consumerism reduces and simplifies reality into something that can be bought and sold, in other words it commodifies our reality. Being a culture based on repetition, consumerism is like propaganda since by repeating consumeristic messages all the time people are influenced by those messages to the point that they believe in them and think them real.

  10. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Read Simone’s posting (n. 41) really interesting. Yet, I don’t agree we can’t oppose the power of advertising. As you mentioned, we are literally bombarded by ads and commercials, but why? Isn’t it because people are easily “brainwashed” and go for the products that they saw on TV or in the papers or on hoardings along the main streets? If we all tried to strengthen the awareness of being influenced, then we would oppose it and there are millions of ways of opposing consumerism and its propaganda. As Simone hinted, we should shun big malls and we should spread this “need” among friends and people who share the same worries and principles as ours. We are not alone, there are lots of people who are in tune with us out there. It is a matter of being heard and sharing, and the blog is a great means of doing that. Yet, we can’t be naive and think that in our classes we all share the same views. There will be students of the same age as you that don’t bother going to the shops round the corner and prefer heading to malls where they can have a snack, windowshop at different shops, etc. becuase they think it is more convenient to find everything they need under the same roof. Then there is the excuse that things are supposed to be “cheaper” at malls.

    Dear Jessica (n.43) you are certainly right when you state that our society has turned into a dystopian society (this had been anticipated by Huxley, Orwell, Bradbury, etc.) long time ago. The issue is: can’t we do anything about it? Are we doomed to succumb and become “inhuman” and “inhumane”?

    Dear Valentina (n.45) I like the expression you use “vicious circle” to highlight the power of advertising upon young people who feel the need to belong to a group. As you pointed out however, the belonging to a group deprives most teenagers of their individuality and personality. We all look alike (same clothes, same hairstyles, same words, same thoughts (??? very worrying!!!), sometimes same features if we undergo some kind of aesthetic surgery!). In what way are we different then? Why do you think we need to look alike, behave alike, speak alike, think alike?

    Dear Lorenzo (n. 46) I think that views need to be adapted to our times. Certain views have proven detrimental and this is revealed by the fact that we are undergoing a moment of crisis regardless of having promoted consumerism and globalisation. Perhaps human beings need to learn how to reach “balance”, something extremely difficult for us, since we, as human beings, are divided between the primordial brain and the rational brain, and the former is dominated by instincts, which make us being carried away by a sense of omnipotence and power. You can keep your views, but try to be flexible and read your classmates’ comments. Other poeple’s comments help us question our views, put them under a different perpective. It is just by means of a positive dialogue and exchange of ideas/opinions that we can grow and better ourselves.

    Dear Damiano (n.47) thanks for mentioning some consequences of consumerism (e.g. pollution, etc.)

    Dear Chiara (n.48) you point out important aspects (e.g. too much food bought and eaten), but you sound a bit too pessimistic. It seems that there is no way out, that we are all brainwashed, but then you say “It is very difficult to resist to it, and most of the times we are not aware that we are being brainwashed, especially if we don’t ask ourselves questions, and if we don’t stop for a moment to think of what we are doing” and these are enlightening words, since you point out that it is just by means of thinking that we can oppose propaganda. At school we are trying to make you think and to make you question certain assumptions.

  11. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Dear Michele (n.51), you seem to say that we are all trapped in the “cage” of consumerism and that we do that to follow the “flock” and to feel part of the same group. But do we really want to look alike? Don’t we all try to add something personal to the same clothes? Think of the rucksucks: they are the same, but you all tend to add different knick-knacks or you write different things on them to make them look different, to make them look yours, so to add individuality to them. Most posts seem to reveal a sense of powerlessness before the force of consumerism. But, would the crushing and belittling force of consumerism exist if people questioned it? Let’s consider fashion: do you realize why it changes so quickly? Of course, to create new urges and new needs in us, so that we buy the latest design (even if the previous pair of shoes is still fine), as Damiano said, we thus create more “waste” and we run the risk of being “smothered” by all the rubbish we are creating. But, where do fashion houses get their latest designs? By you. They pay fashion spotters, who observe young people, they observe they change things in their clothes and then they “reproduce” those things and sell them on the larger marked. THink of ripped clothes. Why should I buy ripped clothes when “ripped” means “worn out”, “old”? Think of the fashion of wearing caps. Why should I wear a cap when it is dark or indoors? Weren’t caps invented to protect us from the sun? If we asked ourselves these questions we would not buy or wear things that make us look ridiculous. As Chiara pointed out, this is what we are missing: asking ourselves questions. And this is what lots of us (teachers) try to do with you at school: let’s discuss about certain issues, let’s share opinions and views, let’s exchange ideas, LET’S THINK.

    Dear Nicola (n.53) you do not see consumerism as a form of propaganda, of danger. Your view is interesting since it is completely different from the opinions expressed by your classmates. I would like you to be more precise and explain in what way you think that consumerism is not a danger at the time being.

    Dear Elena (n.55), you think we are not being controlled by any “tyrant” at the moment and you hope you won’t be living should this ever happen. Well, we should react and respond to any form of subjugation and lack of freedom now if we want to be responsible for future generations. Where would be be, as women, if women before us had not fought for their rights? Rita-Levi Montalcini was not supported by her family when she decided to become a scientist, when she decided to go to university. She decided not to have kids and to get married, because if she had done, she would not have been able to become a scientist. When racial laws forbade her to work as a scientist, she did not give up, and she set up an illegal lab in her room. If we think of ourselves only there won’t be any improvement in our society. We are not passive beings, we are not puppets in the hands of our society, we are our society, we create it and we feed it.

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