Heat waves, galloping inequalities and shortages… In 1973, Richard Fleischer’s film imagined the world in 2022. Green Sun turns out to be furiously close to the reality that is ours, is surprised the Boston Globe.
Science fiction films rarely excel in the art of predicting the future, and in any case, we have never seen the events of a science fiction film occur exactly in the year announced.
Manhattan as a whole had not been turned into a high-security prison in 1997 (as in New York 1997, released in 1981); in 2018, wars between nations had not been replaced by violent sports competitions (as imagined Rollerball in 1975); and in 2019, neither the replicants nor the alien colonies of Blade Runner had not materialized.
Warning and big budget
Of course, it would be presumptuous to assert that the events depicted in 2031 in Snowpiercer (2013) or those imagined in 2054 in Minority Report (2002). So let’s stick for now to our brand new year 2022, in which is supposed to take place Green Sun, a particularly dark dystopia released on screens in 1973 [et désormais disponible en France sur OCS]. A story of overpopulation, hunger and misery, environmental catastrophe, shady corporations, oppression of women, social fracture – among other things.
Based on a novel by Harry Harrison (1925-2012) published in 1966 [Make Room ! Make Room !, paru en français sous le titre Soleil vert], the film directed by Richard Fleischer (The Boston Strangler, The Fantastic Journey) is meant to be both a cautionary tale and a big-budget entertainment film. And unfortunately, over time, his message has lost none of its relevance.
The indigestible Soylent Green
In the novel, New York has become in 1999 a teeming megalopolis of 35 million inhabitants, in a dying world. The film adaptation moves forward a few years and takes overpopulation up a notch, endowing the city with more than 40 million souls in 2022. If both the novel and the film are intended to be edifying tales, where the Anticipation mixes with thriller through an investigation into a murder, the screen adaptation – to the great displeasure of Harry Harrison – highlights a plot completely absent from the original, and which will make it famous: that of a terrible secret that a state enterprise is hiding from the general public.
This new intrigue is food: the impoverished and hungry masses live in dependence on a cheap synthetic food, presented as a derivative of plankton. In the novel, nowhere is Soylent Green mentioned. [“Soylent vert”, que produit la compagnie fictive Soylent Industries, et qui donne son titre au film en version originale], only “Soylent steaks” made with soybeans and lentils. It’s an understatement to say