REVIEW: THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971)

Perfect happiness and efficiency - These are the aspects of life that matter in the drug-controlled future, watched over by a disingenuous government. In this world, the downfalls of man such as rage and sloth have been seemingly abolished, but gone with them is also love. Characters THX and LUH must find a way to escape their environment where these newly discovered emotions are forbidden. Robert Duvall plays the reluctant title role in George Lucas' ambitious directorial debut.

Fresh out of the 60's, the era of French filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, come the beginnings of a famed American director. Lucas shows daring in his first feature-length film, doing away with any hint of exposition and throwing us head-first into a place we must come to understand on our own. What this place turns out to be is in fact a metaphor for the daily American life, with its obvious messages artfully shrouded in layers of complex symbolism.

Watching THX 1138 is an almost familiar experience, seeing as much of its content has been adapted into more recent incarnations such as Minority Report, The Island and even ├ćon Flux - the imagery and themes in THX seem to have inspired the filmmakers behind those projects and surely many others. Unfortunately, due to its slow pacing and quiet nature, the experience can sometimes be a rather trying one. While there is always a beautiful composition on screen that channels Samuel Beckett, flowing free of conventional format, the purposefully dull presence of the film finds us slipping occasionally from full attention.

Duvall and Maggie McOmie make falling in love look easy with their excellent, reserved performances. With a supporting cast including such talents as Sid Haig and Donald Pleasence, THX 1138's acting never fails.

I cannot comment on the special effects. Lucas has apparently never seen the Dead Head sticker on that Cadillac, because he's always looking back, always looking back. In the director's cut that I watched, the effects are what modern Lucas considered "improved upon" which of course means that they are now distracting CGI.

When contemplating the quality of a film, it is important to understand its intentions. Everything that can be construed through a conventional scope as poor about THX 1138 is in fact premeditated and deliberate. George Lucas has succeeded here in creating a highly unique and entirely artistic cinematic experience that presents a believable, though exaggerated, look into the future of humanity.

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