Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies. 1936)

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In my opinion, science fiction is at its best when it is absolutely bonkers. Written by HG Wells and directed by William Cameron Menzies, Things to Come is certainly of that quality. Set after a second world war sends Earth into the dark ages, it travels through a century of human history, studies the moral complexities of man and tackles humankind’s obsession with progress. It is ridiculous, grand, intelligent and bizarre.

Everything about Things to Come has an incredible grandeur. There’s a society of engineers and mechanics that saves humankind from the rubble of war using the “Gas of Peace”, there are huge white cities that they build underground and there’s  an aptly named “space gun” manufactured to journey off the planet. Every element of the future in this film is joyously mad and full of gravitas.

It’s also visually stunning. The camera trickery and huge sets make for fantastic viewing, creating cavernous open spaces and angled, futuristic buildings.

However, what makes this film more than a visual spectacle is its comments on huge, unanswerable topics. It contemplates society, democracy, religion, love and the perils of technology. There’s so much scope to what it covers that we are left entirely dumbfounded after the final scenes; confused as to whether we should be frightened or comforted by what lies in mankind’s future.

Wells’ and Menzies’ creation is utter madness. Bold, century spanning and politically charged, it’s pure 1930s sci fi.

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