The Death Factor
As much as I worship movies (and I REALLY do), sometimes I think the beautiful minds that create them are doing us all a disservice when the not beautiful minds (our governing elite) devoid of any ability of creativity, use them as templates for our own downfall. Fade in… the year is 1975 and Norman Jewison releases ‘Rollerball’, an adaptation of a short story by William Harrison into the world.
It’s 40 years later as you read this and there are a huge amount of aspects of the movie that make it feel like Jewison/Harrison are actually time travellers who had travelled to 2015 just to take footage, or maybe they are miss-fortune tellers, or indeed, the 1% are just using the movie as a template for global control.
Set in 2018 (there’s still time for the setting to be completed and the extremely secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will only bring it closer) a few years after The Corporate Wars ravaged the globe and resulted in a division of the world and it’s people amongst various corporations. This ‘trade’ agreement (read slavery) works on the premise that the population will want for nothing as long as they question nothing, the corporations know best, that includes editing, rewriting and destroying any records on the history of the world in corporation controlled libraries.
To quell any disharmony or desire for revolt or individuality, a murderous global tournament has been designed to feed the blood lust, entertain, distract and control the tribal masses. The corporate regional teams of players in Rollerball are treated like idols, effectively gladiators on wheels (skates and motorbikes) on a death track scoring points with a metal ball by any means necessary, with few, if any rules, and will want for nothing during or after their careers (if they actually survive that is), whether it be money, drugs, women, wealth or anything else. All they need to do is not ask questions.
Jonathan E. (James Caan in an excellent performance) is a seasoned player and has all the riches and rewards of having reached the top of the game, and the corporations don’t like that. No individual is bigger than the Corporation and Jonathan is at hero status. Something must be done. Mr. Bartholomew (another really excellent performance by John Houseman) the head of the Energy Corporation that owns the team tries to bribe Jonathan with luxuries to make him retire, to silence the hero before it’s too late, but his tolerance for wealth has expired, he only wants the adrenalin of the game, at any cost.
Rollerball is stunningly prescient in it’s foretelling of negative corporate influence in society and the use of controlling technology, it’s actually eerie. It also looks fantastic, resplendent in vacuous luxury. Set in another time, distinctly 70s looking (in a very positive way), yet the design is somewhat timeless having built some amazing sets and shrewdly filmed in the modern looking Olympiapark in Munich just after the Olympics. It’s true that some of the violence might be deemed comical relative to the gore of modern movies, but it has an intelligence to it, and works on a far more cerebral level, all supported by a fantastic script. Shrewdly, the violence isn’t allowed to distract the viewer, just as the game was designed to do exactly that.
The movie looks amazing in that the contrast of the rich colour of the world they inhabit is directly at odds with the darkness ruling it. As such it really looks amazing in this new bluray version. Again, quite cleverly, some of the scenes look like it’s a documentary, which only complete the sinister undertones, in that you feel like you might be watching the news today.
Other added bonuses to the bluray (though to be honest, the movie is worth it alone), are various very interesting commentary tracks, and documentaries dealing such as a ‘Making Off’ and backgrounds to the creation of the teams, training and set builds, all great stuff, including interviews with Caan, Jewison, Harrison and many others. This was a movie of considerable intelligence, with devotion, respect and love poured into it by everyone involved, and if you are into game changing movies, it’s an absolute must have in your collection.
Rollerball is out on bluray now.