Things to Come (1936)

Things to Come (1936), directed by William Cameron Menzies.

To call this ambitious exercise in futurism "flawed" does not capture the epic scope of the disaster: an expensive, painful experience for everyone involved, and a critical and commercial flop. It is best remembered for its score, which, unusually for that period, was written for the movie and developed simultaneously with the filming.

Don't blame the actors for their wooden, stagey declamations: they were frustrated at receiving no direction and the script had no character development. Ralph Richardson decided to do "the Boss" as Mussolini.

HG Wells had intimate control over all aspects of the production. He didn't care about the actors or even the dramatic quality of the story. For him this was an extended preachy lecture. He was both predicting the future and trying to shape it. He knew a world war was coming and wanted a new scientific and engineering elite to run things after. Much like Stalin's Russia, with dictatorship of the smart guys instead of the proletariat.

He was trying to make an anti-Metropolis movie. He hated Fritz Lang's film because he thought it such an implausible vision of the future. That Lang might not have been trying to make predictions did not seem to occur to him. See Metropolis (1927) and Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis (1984).

And yet, despite all the problems, it retains much that is fascinating: the intensity of the vision, the seriousness of purpose, the music, and above all, a wonderful artistic presentation of the world from rubble to utopia. They built a large city set and destroyed it bit by bit as the war continued.

The future as predicted by HG Wells.

Remember: the film was made in 1936. WW2 began in 1939, with the intensive bombing of Britain following in 1940.





Criterion Blu-ray, 97m long, which is all they can find of the original 130m cut. The film was chopped up in various ways from the beginning; the missing bits are more talky lectures. It fell into the public domain and then was taken out, and last I heard is in back in again.

The busy commentary track is an excellent essay on the production and people involved. Fact-filled and with much good analysis.