Until a few nights back, I hadn’t seen Dark City since the year of its release.
I’ve been meaning to watch it again for a long time (obviously). I wanted to see it again partly because I remember it being great and partly because I wanted to see whether I’d still think it was great over fifteen years later, as sometimes the films we watch as teenagers don’t seem the same later.
But I’m happy to report I enjoyed it – more the second time around I reckon.
Dark City wasn’t a box office smash by any stretch but it was nominated for a Hugo award (losing to another great film – The Truman Show) and it’s now seen as a cult classic.
The story opens when
“John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a hotel bathtub, suffering from amnesia. He receives a phone call from Dr. Daniel Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland), who urges him to flee the hotel to evade a group of men who are after him. During the phone talk, Murdoch discovers the corpse of a brutalized, ritualistically murdered woman, along with a bloody knife. He flees the scene, just as the group of men (known as the Strangers) show up.” (Thanks to wikipedia for the summary).
And the science-fiction elements are soon revealed as the story goes on. I won’t spoil them here, in case a reader who hasn’t seen the film stumbles across this post, but I will say I loved the way the film dealt with memory and identity.
Aside from enjoying Sewell’s performance, as an Australian it was fun to see a few Aussie and New Zealand actors appearing in the film; for instance, Bruce Spence as ‘Mr Wall’ who I recognised from Ace Ventura 2 – though I should have known him better from Mad Max 2 or an AFI winning film I’m now curious to see called Stork (1971).
One of the other elements I enjoyed was the setting and the sets. Something I missed as a teenager were all the fantastic noir elements present in the film. At times it feels very much like a 1940s noir, yet the sets themselves don’t necessarily speak to a single era or even country. The use of constant darkness too, was very oppressive, very effective. To my eye the special effects held up too and it was nice to see a film free of the overly-slick modern CGI.
So if you haven’t seen Dark City and you’re a fan of film noir and sci-fi then give it a shot, it’s definitely worth a look. And while you're here, check out Anita Kelsey’s version of ‘Sway’ (as mimed by Jennifer Connelly) which has the best arrangement of the song I’ve heard.
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Ashley Capes is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and very occasional non-fiction.
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