I watched Alphaville
last night. It's a French science fiction film from 1965. It was sometimes difficult to follow, but it had some great ideas. The story is set in a future technocracy called Alphavillewhich is an authoritarian society run by a computer called Alpha 60. An outlander secret agent visits Alphaville posing as a journalist; constantly snapping pictures with an old-fashioned camera. The logical society has eliminated poetry and music, and imposes the death penalty for any display of emotion. The society is run based on probabilities the computer determines. At one point Alpha 60 decides to invade the outlands because it is highly probable they will someday invade Alphaville. Their "bible" is a dictionary, with words like "conscience
" declared illegal and removed permanently. And, as one character says, "They are replaced by new words expressing new ideas."
Like any good science fiction, it has me looking at the present in a different way. It's based on a novel by Paul Eluard called Capital of Pain
(or Capital of Sorrow
depending on the translation). Eluard is one of my favorite surrealist poets and I'd love to read it, though I can't find the book in English at any online stores.
Update: Here's a site devoted to Alphaville
with stills and some dialogue. And here's a transcription of the subtitles