Oh how I envy folks who watch a movie and remember the name of it, the characters, and the plot line for decades (or even months) afterward. Ditto for those who remember what they’ve read. My brain is like storm drain, most of what enters, whirls on through to some mysterious place in the universe.
Amid talk of food insecurity, food deserts, in vitro meat products, and juxtaposed with the popular trend of dystopian entertainment, comes a crowd-funded food product called Soylent. At first I thought it was a joke. One of the few movies to make a lasting impression on me was “Soylent Green.” The film came out in 1973, when I was in my impressionable 20s. Hearing about the new product, Soylent, compelled me to rent the “Soylent Greent” DVD from Netflix.The film, set in New York City in the year 2022, opens with a cutting-edge intro flashing still photos depicting the progression from bucolic days of yore, to an increasingly crowded, dark, dismal, and mechanized lifestyle. With his grim mouthful of teeth, Charlton Heston plays alongside the esteemed Edward G. Robinson in what would be Robinson’s last film. Chuck Connors mirrors Heston’s wooden acting, providing the perfect foil for Mr. NRA. While the acting leaves much to be desired, the production values and dialogue have withstood time remarkably well. Back in 1973, concepts like year-long heatwaves and the greenhouse effect seemed as far-off as moon walking seemed in 1950.
De-saturated shots of litter-strewn streets, devoid of people, are clearly set designs; but they convey the emptiness of a world catastrophically altered by climate change. The sight of a lone, bootlegged flank steak brings Edward G. Robinson to tears. Presciently, one percent of the population—the lawyers and politicians—lives in luxury homes with air conditioning, running water, realish food, and “furnished” right down to the choice of female “decor.” The remaining 99 percent huddles in puppy piles in tenement hallways and staircases, waiting lethargically for the next Soylent Green, Red or Yellow food distribution.
The film reaches its grim conclusion with Robinson’s final solution to the weariness of life. He chooses to “go home” to the processing center where he voluntarily enters a room, solemnly sips a delicious concoction and is eased into a lone bed perched before a twenty-minute, full color, wide-screen video of mountains, streams, oceans, wildlife and all the things missing from life in 2022. It is at this point that his buddy, Heston, secretly tracks the journey of Robinson’s body as it leaves the processing room to be unceremoniously dumped into a garbage truck with thousands of other bodies and carted off to the disposal plant where it is magically transformed into the vital Soylent product upon which the rest of the population subsists. The ultimate recycle-reuse solution.
Have we really been arguing about the greenhouse effect for 42 years? Could anyone, having watched this film, seriously ingest a food product called Soylent? Perhaps it’s time for a re-release or even a remake of this film.