|Star:||Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasace, Maggie McOmie|
|Cert / Year:||15 - PG / 1970|
This is George Lucas's first (as far as the direction goes, best) film. It is an expanded version of the film short THX 1138:4EB (:4EB obviously to much of a mouthful!) which he made at university.
The story revolves around one mans struggle to break free from a drug reliant Orwellian state. THX 1138 (Duvall) becomes aware that his life is not all it should be, when his roommate LUH 3417 (McOmie) stops him taking the drugs that the State demands. They fall in love and break the rules by having sex. Branded as an incurable deviant he ends up in prison with SEN 5241 (Pleasance). They escape an go on the run from the State's robotic police force, searching for a better way to live.
This is not big budget Hollywood, it is too off beat and original. The story (written by Lucas) is very like 1984 but taken to new extremes. No explanations are provided as to when, where, or how this society came about, and this is extremely effective. This is what I would call 'hard core sci-fi', it is not just cops in space, or soldiers in space, but an exploration of the human condition in an alternative totalitarian state (see also Fahrenheit 451, Rollerball, and 1984 of course). The humans within this 'perfect' state are reduced to nothing more than mindless robots, which acts as a stark contrast to the emotion shown by THX and the other deviants.
The direction of this film is nothing short of brilliant. George Lucas is very talented (lets hope he finds his touch again soon, after the dodgy Phantom Menace) and this is a major showcase for his talent. The colour (or is that lack of colour) palette is used to great effect. Nearly everything is white, which highlights the skin tone of the shaven headed workers and the black of the police robots. The further away from society THX moves the darker and dirtier the colours become. Not ruining anything, this culminates to great effect at the end of the film.
TThe choice of camera angles is also very effective, as large areas of the screen are left empty. Many shots are half torso only and great use has been made of vertical lines to divide the screen up. It gives the feeling that conversations are being overheard by the viewer. Cut scenes of various counters and computer displays are used in conjunction with overlaid disembodied 'system' voices to further enhance the feeling of being continually watched.
Special mention must go to the 'conditioning' scene which is viewed from a pair of computer monitors. The operators are heard, but not seen, as they chat to each other about the use of equipment. This is brutally contrasted by the picture of THX being tortured by the results of their computer training on the monitors.
With not much dialogue, and few characters, little is required by most of the cast, but both Duvall and Pleasane provide strong performances. Duvall is particularly effective in conveying a man who cannot cope with is new found emotions, and who has to fight the urge to 'go back' to the drugs.
So five stars then. No not quite, THX 1138 will not appeal to everyone for may of the same reasons that make it so original. Technically it is brilliant, however as pure entertainment it can be bit slow and too strange. The budget is in places obviously small, and a lot of the technology has dated badly.
Fans of sci-fi will enjoy this film, but others will find it heavy going. Personally I really like it (I can only recommend that George Lucas watches this again before making any more Star Wars movies). So taking both points of view into account this gives a rating of: