Around the start of the 21st century, there was a sudden flurry of mainstream films with gnostic themes. By which I mean, they showed people living within a reality that had been faked, trying to get through to a ‘real world’. Hollywood has often had similar movies in development at different studios, but this seemed to be almost a movement:
- Dark City (1998)
- The Truman Show (1998)
- Existenz (1999)
- The Matrix (1999)
- The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
(Any other examples that I’ve missed?)
It’s not to say there is necessarily some huge significance to a list of 5 films over 2 years, but they had great similarities beyond anxieties about technology and the rise of the Internet.
It’s also interesting that these movies about rebellion were all produced as mainstream cinema, setting up an interesting tension with their themes of rebellion against authority. These films were released alongside a number of hugely commercial yet anti-consumerist films like as Fight Club and American Beauty. A recent Guardian article asking whether 1999 was the best year in cinema suggests this might be because “DVD sales began in 1997 and flooded studios with extra cash… Studios invested the windfall in a generation of upstart directors“.
There have been other films on these themes in the years since, but this strange simultaneous knot doesn’t seem to have been repeated.If you want to follow what I'm up to, sign up to my mailing list