Architecture and Film: Experiential Realities and Dystopic Futures
Terri Meyer Boake
Terri Meyer Boake teaches at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. One of her courses, entitled ‘Architecture and Film’ deals, unsurprisingly, with architecture and film and the relation between the two. Her essay ‘Architecture and Film: Experiential Realities and Dystopic Futures’ predates the 2006 fall theme of Dystopia and Fear in this lecture series. She does make a few very relevant points about how we can use film to enhance a critical dialogue about visions of past and future architecture.
Film can convincingly portray both architecturally and environmentally dystopian futures and prompt the very poignant “What if?” question Lee Clark discusses in his book ‘Worst Cases’, previously mentioned in the blog. Special effects allow increasingly realistic representations of the effects of disaster in urban/architectural settings. Boake argues that films such as Godzilla (1998), Armageddon (1998) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004) are so convincingly realistic that the imagination of catastrophic disaster is readily available to the public.
When 9/11 occurred, a number of people compared the events to films and expressed difficulty in emotionally connect to the disaster. Destruction is so prevalent in contemporary films that people seem to get emotionally numbed and accustomed to witnessing these kinds of events – even though they are all imagined. So when they happen in reality, do we simply apply our previous experiences of disaster (at least the Hollywood cinema version of it) to understand what has happened? If so, can film be used to inform people about potential urban dangers, prepare populations for real life disasters and assist emergency planning?
The most provocative uses of architecture and urban space arise in film dystopias. As Boake writes, dystopian ‘films engage the moral discussion of future eventualities in light of the presumed outcomes of current social, political and environmental states.’ (p. 5) Urban environments in these films can then be used to fuel the ‘What if?' discussion – based on facts and trends.
Boake concludes that 'film studies can be used to increase knowledge and critical discussion about architectural and urban environments of the past, present and the future.' (p. 8) Hopefully, my thesis work can now start to connect the dots laid out by a number of readings on cities, dystopia, films and science fiction in order to add to this critical discussion.
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