The apocalyptic imagination gained a new vitality and urgency in the late twentieth century, as various actual circumstances and phenomena, both manmade and natural, rose to consciousness as potentially world-ending. From the potential for nuclear accidents and war, to catastrophic and irreversible degradation of the environment and biosphere, to moments of crisis for global capital, the end of the world, or at least of human life on earth, or at least of a certain human way of life on earth, seemed more real, and more likely, than ever before.
This course will examine post-apocalyptic science fiction films from the late 1960s to the present, from a variety of national cinemas and modes of production. We will ask how the cinema imagines and images a post-apocalyptic world. How do different films conceive of “the end of the world?” What is “the world” that is ending, and what does it mean for it to “end”? Moreover, how is the world after the end configured and organized? What does that configuration—of labor, capital, politics, science, technology, ecology, society, the family, the individual, art—look like? What kinds of heroes are imagined, and why do they fight?
Because this is a cinema and media studies class, we will also consider the production circumstances, modes, and techniques of each of the films. What effect do the contexts of a film’s production have on the way it images and imagines “life” after “the end”? What techniques and technologies have been deployed to render the world of the future in moving images? We will consider location shooting, special effects, and computer generated imagery, among others, as they relate to the way Hollywood and other modes adapt their approaches to changing circumstances and contingencies of production.
Films may include Planet of the Apes, Escape from New York, Escape from LA,Omega Man, THX 1138, Waterworld, The Road, Silent Running, The Matrix,Resident Evil, Mad Max, La Jetée, Children of Men, Terminator, and The Hunger Games. Writers and thinkers may include Francis Fukuyama, Bill McKibben, Slavoj Zizek, Daniel Bell, Theodor Adorno, Frantz Fanon, Donna Haraway, and David Harvey.