Director: Richard Fleischer (1973)
Starring: Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Edward G Robinson
On its premise alone, Soylent Green is somewhat unsettling. Loosely based on the 1966 dystopian novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, it shows an imagined future – 2022 – where the world is crumbling under its own weight from overpopulation and materialistic overproduction.
In NYC, the place Soylent Green is set, nature submits to pollution and concrete monstrosities built to house the 40,000,000 state dwellers. Food is something of the past unless you are wealthy enough to pay big bucks for it (try $150 for a small pot of strawberry jam). The only way to survive as an average person is to feed on Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, crackers of compacted plankton produced for and rationed out by the government.
The key character, Detective Thorn, comes into focus when a worker at Soylent Industries dies during a burglary. Investigating the murder of Simonson leads him to question the transparency of the government, where the plankton are sourced now that nature is dying out and, ultimately, what is being used as the primary ingredient in Soylent Green, the newest form of the foodstuff.
For viewers in 2013, the film is a stark picture of a not-so-distant imagined future. It is a rather fishy situation considering there is hardly any plankton left. As the plot moves along, Simonson locates the actual source of Soylent Green. The ending is rather predictable – in an overpopulated society, one that constantly grows in size with bright and promising new-borns, where could one possibly find a protein source that is past its prime…? Despite this, though, the brutal and callous mentality of the government, mirrored through the director’s use of dull tones during public scenes and futuristic metallic backdrops for wealthy government members, is enough to send modern viewers into a consideration of our reality in 2013. What if Soylent Green comes true? In a world suffering with financial problems, natural disasters and large-scale poverty, the imagined future seems troublingly possible.
With thanks to Chapter Arts Centre – www.chapter.org