Simulation Proliferation and the City
Mr. Hand wears all black, is tall, thin, and pale. He floats around a dark city and ends far too many lines with a creepy self-affirming “yesss.” In Dark City (Alex Proyas 1998) we see over and over again indications of the tropes and repetitions that make up the urban/filmic imagination. Not quite vampires, not quite grey aliens, not quite business men, not quite religious, not quite serial murderers, Mr. Hand and the other Strangers seem to be archetypal characters of the city. Is the imagination a domesticating function, territorializing wild occurrence and happenstance into termed rearrangements of what has come before? Or is it an explosive and infinite fountain of creativity? Modern metropolises and imagination present themselves together in such films as mutually helpful tools for inspecting one another – but my effort is to use the city to discuss several imaginations. As is only obvious enough from one city dweller talking to another, imagination (moreso than representation or memory) is home to the ever changing city. Conversely, however, the city enables a specific citified imagination, with its own structure and economy. To begin, though, I want to interrogate, as a point of departure, the philosophy of fantasy in a highly commercial, idyllic, anti-city movie.
Those lucky children of the 80’s witnessed the depiction and eventual summarization of the relation between fantasy, imagination, fiction, story, and control in the politico-creative manifesto, The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Peterson 1984). In the movie, Sebastian (a somewhat troubled young boy) reads a book (whose unfolding is the main content of the screen) and is then implicated in the collapse of a fantasy world. Late in the movie, Gmork, an evil wolf, explains to the boy warrior, (and world’s only hope) Atreju, the consumption of their world, Fantasia, by sober, adult power:
“Fantasia has no boundaries.” [thunder and lightning]
“That’s not true, you’re lying.”
“Foolish boy, don’t you know anything about Fantasia, it’s the world of human fantasy: every part, every creature is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind, therefore, it has no boundaries.” [earthquake and thunder]
“But why is Fantasia dying then?”
“Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams, so the nothing grows stronger.”
“What is the nothing?”
“It’s the emptiness that’s left, it’s like a despair destroying this world and I have been trying to help it.”
“Because people who have no hopes are easy to control and whoever has the control has the power.” [thunder and lightning]
A wolf’s face hidden in a dark hole in a mysterious wall is usually just a pair of scary puppet eyes. But, with all the majesty and persuasiveness the Earth can muster, he alone has made clear all that was before so very puzzling. Fantasy, though not specified in the film, seems defined simply as a contrast to...