Dark City is a 1998 neo-noir science fiction film directed by Alex Proyas. The screenplay was written by Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer. The film stars Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt. Sewell plays John Murdoch, an amnesiac man who finds himself suspected of murder. Murdoch attempts to discover his true identity and clear his name while on the run from the police and a mysterious group known only as the “Strangers”.
(themes) Theologian Gerard Loughlin interprets Dark City as a retelling of Plato‘s Allegory of the Cave. For Loughlin, the city dwellers are prisoners who do not realize they are in a prison. John Murdoch’s escape from the prison parallels the escape from the cave in the allegory. He is assisted by Dr. Schreber, who explains the city’s mechanism as Socrates explains to Glaucon how the shadows in the cave are cast. Murdoch however becomes more than Glaucon; Loughlin writes, “He is a Glaucon who comes to realize that Socrates’ tale of an upper, more real world, is itself a shadow, a forgery.”
Murdoch defeats the Strangers who control the inhabitants and remakes the world based on childhood memories, which were themselves illusions arranged by the Strangers. Loughlin writes of the lack of background, “The origin of the city is off–stage, unknown and unknowable.” Murdoch now casts new shadows for the city inhabitants, who must trust his judgment. Unlike Plato, Murdoch “is disabused of any hope of an outside” and becomes the demiurge for the cave, the only environment he knows. The city in Dark City is described by Higley as a “murky, nightmarish German expressionist film noir depiction of urban repression and mechanism”. The city has a World War II dreariness reminiscent of Edward Hopper‘s (049) works and has details from different eras and architectures that are changed by the Strangers; “buildings collapse as others emerge and battle with one another at the end”. The round window in Dark City is concave like a fishbowl and is a frequently seen element throughout the city. The inhabitants do not live at the top of the city; the main characters’ homes are dwarfed by the bricolage of buildings. (wiki)
Mr. Hand: We’re very lucky when you think about it. / Emma Murdoch: I’m sorry? / Mr. Hand: To be able to revisit those places which have meant so very much to us. / Emma Murdoch: I thought it was more that we were haunted by them. / Mr. Hand: Perhaps. But imagine a life Alien to yours. In which your memories were not your own, but those shared by every other of you kind. Imagine the torment of such an existence….no experiences to call your own. / Emma Murdoch: If it was all you knew, maybe it would be a comfort. / Mr. Hand: But if you were to discover something different…Something….better.