Captivating Visual Dystopias: Paradise Hills and Equals

9 Dec

Recently I watched two dystopian films, Paradise Hills and Equals, that were visually enthralling with their use of color and visual metaphors. 

Paradise Hills
Paradise Hills (2019) starts with vibrant floral hues and then ends in darkness as the characters discover the truth about the facilities on a remote island that is supposed to turn the daughters of Uppers (the wealthy elite) into perfect ladies.  While the story is derivative of other feminist works such as The Stepford Wives, it use of colors and visuals is stunning and had me enthralled by this dark whimsical futuristic fairy-tale.  Emma Roberts stars as Uma and the film also features a stellar Awkwafina as Yu.  Mila Jovovich plays the mysterious Duchess who runs the facility.  The outfits the girls wear reminded me of Alice in Wonderland mixed with Clockwork Orange with the look of a whimsical white dress made out of a straitjacket.  Being oneself and speaking your mind are ideals for us all and yet too often women are still made to feel that good girls should just stay quiet and look pretty. You can borrow it on DVD from BCCLS libraries or stream it on Kanopy.

Equals
The 2016 film, Equals also use color to effect in this case primarily a lack of colors with only white being prominently featured in costuming.  Peoples’ dress and mannerisms are solely utilitarian in Equals.  The story draws its inspiration from 1984, but focuses primarily on the suppression of emotions and a forbidden love story between Nia (Kristen Stewart) and Silas (Nicholas Hoult).  It is considered a serious medical condition if people encounter Switched on Syndrome (SOS) and begin to have emotional responses to things.  As with Paradise Hills the story works best in its visuals.  The main characters work for a division that must illustrate news stories of outside conflicts, which unlike the world around them often appear in vivid color.  The film moved at a slow pace at time lingering over visual metaphors like Nia and Silas briefly holding hands, this like the monotone deliveries from the actors captures life in a world where along with negative emotions, feelings of happiness and joy are also suppressed. It is available to stream from Hoopla or to borrow on DVD from BCCLS Libraries.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

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