THE DYSTOPIAN CITY IN FILM
Benjamin A. DeLoose
(Dr. Michael Frontani) School of Communications

The zeitgeist of society and the condition of the city at a given time can be explored through films with an urban setting. Urban settings have been utilized by filmmakers since the formative years of film, yet the full potential of the urban setting as a tool to examine social issues or facilitate discourse took some time to realize. Avant-garde filmmakers of the 1920s actually developed an entirely new genre, the documentary-style “city symphony,” which realistically portrayed the urban landscape and the daily lives of its inhabitants. The next major development in the city film came with film noir, the dark and moody genre of the 40’s and 50’s which was populated with ominous and dilapidated cities. Dystopian city films find their roots in these two genres, which gives them a unique perspective on the city through the mixture of stylized aesthetics and brutal realism.
Through review of scholarly works on city films and direct analysis of cinematic sources, it becomes evident that the dystopian city film is the most explicit cinematic representation of the city. This explicitness allows the social implications derived from the cinematic representation to be fully examined. It is only when the bright and positive are stripped away does one see what truly exists beneath, and the analysis of dystopian city films shows this in both its characters: the city and the individual.

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