Years ago, I was working on a screenplay for a dystopian movie. I ultimately shelved it to work on books instead, though I did put some elements of it into The Start of the Majestic World.
There were two plot threads in the movie: one was the personal story of the main character, his girlfriend, and a rival for her affections. The second thread was about change in society generally, and how it goes back and forth from hedonism to brutal tyranny. The idea was that the “societal” themes formed a backdrop to the more personal story. I called the two threads “micro” and “macro”.
The macro plot involved a popular, charismatic and transformative President at the end of his term, campaigning for his chosen successor. And his successor was a member of his administration who had worked well with him, but who had the dull personality of a bureaucrat.
But his successor faced a surprise challenge from a radical candidate, who was dangerous and reckless, but also very charismatic and popular. The challenger wanted to dismantle all of the old administration’s policies.
In the second act, the challenger won in spite of the government’s best efforts to stop him. After which, everything went to hell.
My working title for the screenplay was “The Fall Guy”, because the main character ends up taking the fall for a lot of stuff done by the original administration once the challenger takes over.
I set the screenplay aside about 6 years ago, mostly because the dialogue had gotten too heavy on political philosophy for a movie. But I’ll admit, I’ve recently thought about revisiting it…
I tried to read the first book of the Hunger Games series awhile back, and although I thought it was well-written and had a good setting, it was hard for me to get into it because it was fairly predictable. I’m sure that’s partially because it was written for a younger audience, but I think it also is a just a little too cliche filled. I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s a decent book, but I pretty much knew where it was going from a very early point. This is a problem I have with a lot of dystopian fiction–it all seems cut from the same cloth.
You know, I had an idea for a dystopian movie once. It would be set at an undefined place and time, in a country where a totalitarian, fascist government had taken over. The main character would be some kind of violent goon for the government who went around suppressing all dissenters. And the whole film would present him as the hero–he’d be played by a “leading man”, the camera angles would present him heroically–the whole film would seemingly approve of the dystopian society. Then, at the end, there would be some kind of title card or something telling the audience that this was a propaganda film approved by the fictional government, perhaps even detailing some of the techniques involved.
The point of this would be to pull the rug out from under the audience; see how many of them would have found themselves being subtly seduced into rooting for the main character–and the society he represents–by the film’s technique. The “plot twist” would actually be a test to see how much people would start to buy into something awful because of good cinematography. Then they would have to re-evaluate what they had just watched.
The trouble is, this is more of a science experiment than an entertainment movie. The trick of the movie is that usually, in dystopian stories, the protagonist begins to question his society, and through him, the audience is told about the society’s problems. (e.g. Winston Smith in 1984, Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451) There would be none of that in this movie. He’d be 100% behind the society, and looking to maintain it. It would be kind of like 1984 from O’Brien’s perspective.
The thing about my idea–and I’m not saying it’s a good idea–is that it plays with the tropes of the dystopian genre. Dystopian stories give the audience some character they can turn to to see the dystopia’s flaws; or at least the “tone” of the piece, or the “voice” of the narrative give it away. Here, there are no societal outcasts or anything like that for people to turn to. (The main character takes care of that.) I thought this up largely from noticing that every dystopian story seems to rely on the same devices, and that makes them pretty predictable.