Post Apocalyptic Research, ideas, themes and mise-en-scene related to the concept of the Post Apocalyptic genre.
The Genre The Post-Apocalyptic and Apocalyptic genre came about as a sub-genre of Science Fiction. Both focus around some form of general disaster that has caused, or is in the process of causing the end of humanity and civilisation. The time frame can either be during, directly after, or in the stages in the future of the disaster, focusing on the psychological differences as well as physical change in the way society runs and functions after said event. Post-Apocalyptic fiction tends to be set in a futuristic world, in which democracy and government has fallen apart, with remnants of technology remaining, causing man to fall back to basic survival instinct. Agriculture and basic building materials become far more valuable and comforts such as computers, mobile technology and cars are disregarded.
History The post-apocalyptic genre gained particular popularity after the first world war, when the idea that society could potentially be entirely wiped out in the event of nuclear warfare was made publically apparent. However, the genre has been around since much before then, dating back to at least the first quarter of the nineteenth century when Mary Shelley's ‘Last Man’ was published. Many texts that chose to include or base the plot around the post-apocalyptic genre, usually have some form of relation to the Bible, Christianity or Religion as a whole. Namely this is down to the Jewish and Christian eschatology and the predictions that have been made regarding how the world, human race and civilised life on Earth will end. More recently films and other literature have branched out from the concept of religion, as many prophecies have been made and rumours have circulated about the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. This has already resulted in a film made in 2009, by Roland Emmerich, anticipating the end of the world due to over consumption and blatant human disregard of the planet and environment. This is becoming an increasingly popular genre, with a variety of different approaches and avenues to explore.
Early Post Apocalyptic Genre This genre is possibly one of the youngest to emerge in film and literature, being only 150-200 years old. The basis in modern technology, wars, progression with weaponry and various natural and human made disasters that have only occurred over the last few centuries have been able to develop this theme into a stand-alone genre. The first true post-apocalyptic novel was written by Richard Jefferies in 1885, called After London. The basis of the story focuses around nature claiming back built on land, such as London reverting back into swampland, and fields turning into thick forest and shrub. This book has been the basis for many films, such as The Happening, by M. Night Shyamalan as well as the concept for further science-fiction literature. However, the best and most famously known apocalyptic novel, with the most adaptations across all forms of media, originally written by H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds.
Nuclear War A large amount of post apocalyptic films are based around the idea of nuclear war. This gained in popularity not long after the cold war, when the idea of self destruction and disaster was no longer imaginary and could actually be a product of human disagreement. George Orwell’s 1984, was one of the earliest pieces of literature related to the idea of a truly apocalyptic war. Then there was of course NevilShutes, On the Beach and Pat Franks, Alas, Babylon, all three books of which have been made into successful post apocalyptic films. Whilst the majority of these plot lines are usually believable and possible in less fantastical, some may include more supernatural elements such as extraterrestrials, mutants or exotic futuristic weaponry. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, have according to some theorists, influenced their popular culture and changed many of the plots and themes in their television and films. The most recent example of war, potentially nuclear, would be in The Road in which the Earth is a wasteland in which a father and his son fight for their survival against a variety of obstacles.
Pandemic A pandemic is the concept or ideology of a widespread disease infecting and in some way either mutating or killing the human race. Many early novels deal with the theory of a plague or airborne virus depopulating Earth and leaving survivors in a hostile planet with no real hope or reason for survival. The film Blindness, adapted from a novel, deals with how the majority of the population begins to lose their sight and how it destroys society. I Am Legend is another film that deals with the spread of a disease that transforms humans into vampiric creatures, and records the journey of one man and his fight to defeat the plague and find others in a similar situation to himself.
Modern Technology This specific sub genre has only recently come into film and literature in the last 100 years or so, due to the rapid advancement of technology in the modern world. It focuses around the concept of technology failing us so dramatically that all civilization comes to a halt and we are reverted to living on the basic survival necessities and instincts. It strips away many of the luxuries of life and shows what it truly means to be human, bringing out what would be considered some nasty truths about life. A lot of films have elements of this such as The Book of Eli and The Road.
Extraterrestrial Threats A vast amount of modern and original classics hold the idea and concept of aliens or extraterrestrial beings coming to and inhabiting Earth implementing impending doom upon our way of life and culture. Directors such as Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan especially focus around this theme with films such as Signs and Falling Skies. Whilst, if carefully done this can be solely post apocalyptic, it usually has elements of Sci-Fi and Thriller genres.
‘Cosy’ Catastrophe Very typical of British Science-Fiction writers after World War II, the ‘cosy’ catastrophe is a disaster in which all the main characters survive relatively unscathed and are free to rebuild their lives without the prior rules and regulations. Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is an early and good example of this, where the vast majority of the world go blind due to a meteor shower, yet the main characters are all sighted and relatively free from harm.
Games The post-apocalyptic setting in games has been and still is a highly popular genre to attract an audience. Games such as the ‘Fallout,’ ‘Far Cry’ and ‘Bioshock’ franchises are all based around the aftermath of a giant world event that has threatened mankind's existence and modern civilization. All three of the above examples are massively popular and successful as the concept is believable and also gives the audience a chance to be immersed in the atmosphere. The gaming and film industries both work closely with each other, creating money through adaptions, as well as inspiration from the fantasy worlds they both create.
Children of Men Children of Men is a refreshing and inventive film that is based around the entire world becoming infertile and rendering the population unable to reproduce. This has led to a world wide depression, militia in MEDCs and a race to find a cure or solution before the human race is completely wiped out. As the hope for humanity begins to run out the state of the world worsens, putting further pressure on the main characters.
Book of Eli The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic film based around a sole lead character that is travelling alone across a desolate landscape, finding his only piece of mind in a book in which he carries with him, guarding with his life. This film has a subtle religious subtext, in a way that connotes the book is the bible and that Eli is almost a Jesus-like figure. Throughout the film similarities are made and small references appear, but nothing is ever mentioned certainly.
The Road The Road, unlike both previous examples of post apocalyptic film, doesn’t have so much of a dramatic and action/adventure feel to it. Whilst it’s still tense and has points of climax, the mood is far more somber, with the main aim of the film to play on the audiences emotions. This has a dramatic effect and engages the viewer as well as inducing empathy on the characters behalf, which is a key feature in keeping interest from start to finish.
Common Themes and Ideologies Most post and apocalyptic films all share a few commonalities such as our society decaying and reverting to a primal sense of being; shelter, food, warmth and defense. This usually has basis in the loss of humanity in many people, who become ready to kill others to survive, making the world far more dangerous to live in. The main character normally retains their morals and fights for their or someone else's survival for the good of greater mankind typically resulting in a positive resolution at the end of the film.
Initial Ideas A few ideas we started off with for our own piece revolved around the modern day fear of the world coming to an end in 2012. Over the last decade conspiracies have arisen around the theme that our planet will be wiped out due to global warming, viruses or experimenting too far with technology. A few things we have considered is the turn of the year in 2012 to 2013, that dramatic climate change will result in an extinction of the human race as well as viral diseases and even a religious subtext similar to the Book of Eli.
Sources • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-apocalyptic_film • http://www.apocalypticmovies.com/movie-index/post-apocalyptic.html • http://richardjefferiessociety.co.uk/jefferieslife.html