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Soylent Green: A Critical Analysis

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A critical analysis of Soylent Green

American cinema of the seventies is full of films that reflect on the dangers arising from the scientific and technological evolution of the human race. The fragile control of 20th-century man over nuclear power ("The Syndrome of China" 1979), bacteriological research ("The Last Man Alive" 1971), the environment ("Mysterious Ships" 1972) Souls of Metal "1973) awakens new global fears in a modern Western society that is torn between consumerism and discontent.

Richard Fleischer's film "Soylent Green: When Destiny Reaches Us", occupies a privileged place within this cinematic trend. And because? You will ask.

The answer is simple, Fleischer brilliantly directs a plot of black-and-white cinema set in a terribly realistic dystopic future. Balancing masterly purely cinematographic content (drama, action, intrigue) with a pessimistic reflection of social and environmental nature.

But beware, not all the merit we can attribute to Fleischer, far from it. Much of the blame for "Soylent Green" being considered today as a science fiction film classic is due to the powerful and emotional interpretation of its two protagonists: Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson. There is nothing!


YEAR: 1973. DURATION: 97 min. COUNTRY: United States.

DIRECTOR: Richard Fleischer.

SCRIPT: Stanley R. Greenberg.

MUSIC: Fred Myrow. PHOTOGRAPHY: Richard H. Kline.

CAST: Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leight Taylor-Young, Joseph Cotten, Chuck Connors, Brock Peters, Paula Kelly, Leonard Stone.

STUDIO / PRODUCER: Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Producer: Walter Seltzer, Russel Thacher.

GENRE: Science Fiction. Dystopia. Thriller. Film Noir.

SYNOPSIS: Year 2022, the flora and fauna of the planet are practically extinct and large masses of people congregate in the cities. New York hit by an asphyxiating calima welcomes 40 million souls. The vast majority of its inhabitants live precariously; Crowded, no light or running water and feeding on soybeans, plankton and seaweed based prefabrications; While a select minority lives isolated in luxury buildings enjoying all kinds of privileges and amenities.

Robert Thorn is a tough cop who is commissioned to investigate the murder of William Simonson, one of those privileged citizens. The victim is an important businessman, ex-director of the Soylent Corporation, the industry that monopolizes the manufacture of synthetic foods that consumes the bulk of the population.

Screenwriter Stanley Greenberg, based on Harry Harrison's novel "Make Room! Make Room! ", Constructs a suggestive police plot with visions of political thriller, more typical of film noir than of science fiction, set in a bleak future.

As the research progresses and using the protagonist couple; Detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) and his old assistant, archival researcher, Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson); Greenberg briefly explains the causes of the ecological disaster while recreating the exposure of its disastrous consequences. Establishing a cause-effect relationship between the ecological hecatomb by environmental contamination and social disruption.

The writer presents us with a future world with a society markedly asymmetrical and dehumanized. Ruled by the immorality of the wealthy class and the despair of the mass. And in which the dignity of the individual, human rights and basic social structures, such as the family, have gradually been replaced by alienation, predation and survival instinct.

A bitter but fully feasible future as reflected in this dialogue between Thorn and Roth:

- And now you will tell me that in the world of before everything was better.

- Oh, do not think, people were just as bad. But the world was more beautiful.

If the script is good the realization of Richard Fleischer is even better. The director manages to wrap the stunning dystopian scene with a suggestive black police film exercise that still retains the ability to thrill. Although it could not be otherwise in such a cross of genres, film noir and futuristic dystopia, the fatalism that permeates the entire film leaves a bitter taste.

The narrative is firm and linear (always looking to the future). The engine of this is the intrigue Thorn must discover: What is the mystery of Soylent Green? An intrigue that does not solve until the final sequences and that gives of suspense to the whole film.

Much of the unsettling ability that comes off the tape is due to the success of Fleischer in using realism as a fundamental tool. The director used realism so that the public of the time felt that future of nightmare as a real threat. To that end Fleischer consciously refuses to create a timeless image in the style of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) and opts for a markedly seventy production design.



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