I saw Dark City just this Tuesday the 12 August. Those fine people at Electric Sheep arranged a free screening at the Roxy bar and screen at 132 Borough High Street Since I had a little trouble finding the place it was quite the little adventure. If you decide to pop down there the bar is between a coffee bar and a local supermarket.
Dark City has a homogenous 40s/50s noir thriller opening that made me settle down comfortable in spite of the fact that I was standing - the place was packed. But despite the familiar start in genre the film soon had me trying to plot jump,
Opening from what appears to be a disquieting murder thriller scene Dark City moves into the weird areas with Kafkaesque like inquisitors closely following the murderer(our hero)’s footsteps. The fantasy elements creep slowly into the story so that I wasn’t really disturbed at the change(?) of genre. By the time ‘magic’ powers are being thrown around with abandon I’m hooked.
Dark City is an underground cult classic. A status that it shares with Society, another film that deals with the theme of an ordinary man as a hero rebelling against being manipulated by shadow cabinets that hide behind the thin veil of mundane reality. What makes these two films underground cult classics and not the likes of the cult classic: The Lost Boys? Popularity and video sales! As good as Dark City is, as underrated as it may be, it stays an underground cult classic simply because it never caught on.
About a quarter the way through the film the French waiter (I’m probably in trouble now - he may have been Belgian!) bosses me to a sofa near the front where he got a couple to scrunch up to make room for me. So I was well set to watch the rest of the film in my sequestered comfy nook.
The theme of mundane heroes coming into their magical powers as they resist shadow cabinets that hide behind a careful maintained facade of reality in which we live is ancient. Even when the Brothers Grimm revisited it to explore new political thinking within many popular tales. Well maybe not that popular. After all who wants to hear that the dark things messing with your life aren't out there in the wilds but snuggled up inside with you in the warm?
Dark City genre pays homage not only to the Brothers Grimm but Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle. Dark City is one of the many precursors of a genre that we are all so familiar with nowadays. It successors in this genre are legion but amongst the most popular are
Caro & Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children ; Tim Burtons various productions the most recent and obvious one being Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: and Gaiman’s television series Neverwhere.