11 October 2005

George A. Romero's Land of the Dead (2005)

Dir. - George A. Romero; Writer - George A. Romero
Cast - Simon Baker - Riley; John Leguizamo - Cholo; Dennis Hopper - Kaufman; Asia Argento - Slack; Robert Joy - Charlie; Eugene Clark - Big Daddy; Joanne Boland - Pretty Boy; Tony Nappo - Foxy; Jennifer Baxter - Number 9

Following on from his previous commentaries on racism, the environbment and consumerism, the latest in Romero's socio-political critique of late western capitalism and it's inherent tendencies to self-destruction clearly bases itself around an assault on the prevailing real politik following the twin towers and war on 'terrorism'.

The film opens with a typical post-apocalyptic looking gang of anti-stench warriors together with their cobbled together armoured vehicle Dead Reckoning going into battle against a large crowd of zombies in search of 'essential supplies' (food, guns, and maybe some beer). Turns out such raids are essential as the only real live humans are pretty well trapped in a heavilly walled New York City, where they can't grow food - so have to go out and steal it.

However when one of the workers in uniform, Cholo (John Leguizamo), attempts to demand that he is rewarded for his long service by a place in 'Fiddlers Green' - the twin towers trope - a large skyscraper reserved for the rich and powerful, from which the living poor are as excluded as the dead are from the city itself, he is rejected by patriarchal figure of Kaufmann (Dennis Hopper). Thus he must seek his revenge, by threatening to blow up the tower itself!

All american hero Riley (Simon Baker)is therefore sent out on one last mission to stop Cholo and rescue Dead Reckoning for Kaufmann. He picks up a couple more misfits and off they go - but it's the people of the city they are interested in saving, not Kaufmann or his cronies.

Meanwhile, the dead are becoming almost conscious and are marching on the city....

The dialectical relationship between the workers (in and out of uniform) and the dead (essentially the 'third world' peasantry, Romero is clearing establishing the nature of the theory of labour aristocracy in relation to the two groups) is a fascinating development, where we see Cholo as essentially the role of the union leadership (simply wanting a slightly bigger share of the pie for himself/[i]his[/i] cronies, rather than a fundamental shift in the nature of power), versus Rileys (an explicit call to tear down all the walls, which keep the workers locked in as much as the dead locked out) revolutionary socialism. That the oppressed turn on each other before turning on the bosses is shown clearly in both this aspect of the film, and in the way many of the dead fight each other for scraps, before achieving a consciousness that enables them to unite and march on the city.

Here Romero boldly breaks with Marxist theory (or at least the common Leninist version thereof)by having that consciousness come from within the 'class' itself - the gas pump attendant whose vestigial memory allows him to begin to use tools and to organise the dead as a class for itself.

The only criticism of the film would be in that Romoero's visual representations of the destructiveness of US imperialism is far too weak. Tho there are many scenes of explicit and horrific gore, they cannot come close to the true depths of depravity experienced by Iraqi civilians - even in scenes such as that where Big Daddy (the leader of the dead) stomps his foot down and splatters another combatants head forty feet across the screen cannot compare the the brutality of the Basra road, or Falluja. The scene where a (living) soldier falls and is blown to pieces by his own grenade is, however, a telling commentary on the 'friendly fire' deaths the US are so keen to avoid mentioning.

One cannot give away the ending of the film, of course, however, it would certainly be fair to say that it is in keeping with the political and didactic tone of the previous ninety minutes. Sides must be chosen, even by the 'aristocrats', and indeed they are.

All in all, a magnificent marxist allegory for the twenty-first century. Had it only mentioned the need to build a revolutionary party, it would have been all but perfect.


Blogger Chris Shipton said...

I really like the bit where you see moving shadow cast across a derilct building, showing a zombie ripping a head complete with spinal cord out from a live victim. Some excellent gore.

10:29 AM  

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