For many, the name of George Lucas will be perpetual, irremediable and almost exclusively linked to Star Wars, the galactic saga that redefined how commercial cinema is produced, marketed and distributed. Nor can anyone be blamed for believing it like this: it is a film franchise of such caliber that it can shade almost any movie with which it shares billboards, and not to mention the only two feature films directed by Lucas before taking the world to his distant galaxy: 1973 American Graffiti and his 1971 debut film, THX 1138 .
On the surface, the latter is the most related to the film franchise that happened to him: both can be vaguely labeled "science fiction", although the reality is that they could not be more different. While the Star Wars Lucas would lead the genre in the direction of space operas, the THX 1138 Lucas was more concerned with the advent of technology that would enable a dystopian society in constant vigilance, oppressive and alienating. Few films portray an Orwellian world with such coldness.
The state blesses you. The masses bless you. You are the work of divinity created in the image of man. For the masses, for the masses. Let's give thanks for having commerce. Buy more, buy more now. Buy and be happy ...
( THX 1138 )
Based on his own electronic short film Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB, George Lucas paints an uninspiring future: humans have alphanumeric denominations instead of names and live drugged to suppress sexual desire, foster obedience and improve their performance in production chains in those that are manufactured robotic police that will perpetuate the established social order.
The universal dress code serves for deindividualization: shaved heads and overalls matching the empty white of a mechanical society, where confessionals are upholstered with the image of an inexpressive prophet who delivers prerecorded firming phrases: "Buy and be happy."
THX 1138 is a story about the search for freedom and love in the face of the despair of a confinement at the hands of totalitarianism. When their homonymous protagonist (Robert Duvall) is tricked by his roommate to skip their dose of drugs, they both fall in love and arouse in them a desire to live that drives them to try to flee the regime that sees everything.
THX 1138 may be a product of its context, contrary to the timeless and commercially successful Star Wars fantasy, but it is undeniable that in the current scenario the speech of the former is surprisingly current and, consequently, much more relevant.
Collective sedation is probably the aspect of this bleak society that deserves more attention. It is a mechanism to contain individuals in bubbles that provide the necessary comfort to ensure a sufficient degree of obedience. At present, society is not induced to its collective lethargy by a drug of daily consumption, as the film portrays. It would have been difficult to predict how this would happen in reality, but it should be noted that the result is creepyly similar: we live a reality shaped by big data and algorithms so that each individual receives neither more nor less than the information that is comfortable to consume, in a kind of cultural self-education.
Recently Martin Scorsese expressed his disagreement with the cinema of today, noting that "we are completely saturated with images without meaning." Not only are the images available on virtually any side thanks to the ubiquity of the screens, but they also seem more dismayed with the repetition and hyperbolization: the sequel to the spinoff remake, products from the Hollywood factory that knows how comforting it can be. Be nostalgic.
When he directed THX 1138, Lucas seemed to aspire to become a film author, outside the rules of the Hollywood industry. It is paradoxical that, when creating Star Wars, he would not only become the kind of filmmaker he himself detested but that his saga would be a pioneer of the cinema that dominates the current mainstream, always repeated, always bigger and more exciting, devoid of restlessness before the future. Megafranchises less concerned with transmitting messages through the image than providing innocent, scandalous and massively marketable fun.
THX 1138 will always remain under the enormous shadow of what came next, but it is comforting to know that it endures as a cult classic, available to the general public as part of the Netflix catalog. This, of course, as long as it manages to appear among the suggestions of the recommendations algorithm.
Author's Twitter: @Lalo_OrtegaRios