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Home > Hopeless Cinema and Its Place in the Spectrum of Genre

Hopeless Cinema and Its Place in the Spectrum of Genre

Ex Machina

The Importance of the Sub-Genre

Comedies, romance films, and other gleeful movies are familiar comforts to escape from the worries and anxiety of the real world. Escaping into a film where you can experience a merry story where everything turns out well for the characters acts as a comfort blanket in the end. These types of films also become customary rewatches as the cheery tones of the film can serve as a reminder that there can still be good in the world. 

The flip side of these more cheerful films comes from a genre with a more pessimistic view of the world. Movies like The Hunt, Blade Runner 2049, Fight Club, Memories of Murder, and Taxi Driver suck out all of humanity’s goodness, leaving a grim perspective of society. Although their stories are dreary and leave little hope, the genre has produced some of the most acclaimed films in history. They have carved out their own cinema category, as the films tend to cross genres, including horror, dramas, westerns, action, thrillers, noir, gangster, and more. Although they do not appeal to a massive audience, they provide elements not present in other films, such as having a grim ending. Movies like Seven or The Mist give audiences an emotional gut punch, leaving them with little to no hope during dark times.

The Human Connection

It’s common to find memes on social media of users saying they relate to popular characters from hopeless cinema. Characters like Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, Tyler Durden from Fight Club, and Officer K from Blade Runner 2049 are often choice characters audiences claim to connect with on a deeper level. It may be concerning if audiences find themselves deeply connected with characters such as Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Still, the genre provides characters that tend to be layered with emotions and problems most individuals can relate to.

Bubbly characters that flood more optimistic movies do not truly reflect the struggles that everyone experiences. Those characters often come off as unrealistic depictions of people we know. In contrast, characters in hopeless films tend to have more realism to their portrayal, or at least offer a reflection of how audiences view themselves. 

A Cathartic Escape

When examining a film like 2014’s Ex Machina, the movie provides little comfort for the future of humanity. Themes revolving around AI and the increasing threat to humanity were tackled that, at the time of release, appeared to lose relevance to the current state of the world but have become more realized as technology has evolved. Despite the science fiction elements of the movie, the human characters have been able to resonate with audiences in the same way other hopeless films have. 

However, the heightened exaggeration of problems involving a killer robot adds comfort for audiences experiencing difficult times. Audiences may connect with the characters emotionally, leaving the film feeling solace that their issues are not as threatening as the ones in the movies — other films toy with similar tools. Movies like Blade Runner 2049 or Taxi Driver provide the characters with extreme circumstances that they must overcome, ones that average audiences will likely never experience in their personal lives. This allows audiences to view their problems as less significant or severe, making their lives appear better than when they started watching the film.

Bladerunner 2049

An Appreciation for Life

Experiencing the bleakness and despair of humanity may leave most audiences having a grim view of life, while others may feel a renewed appreciation for their circumstances. Seeing the harshness of someone else’s life may lead them to see the countless joys they have in their own lives. The pleasures they have slowly begin to outweigh the troubles they are experiencing. Audiences may even be able to pick out the yearning for life through the character’s suffering. 

As many films tend to focus on the sufferings the characters experience, they also highlight empathy and redemption. Numerous characters tend to put on a masculine persona while being broken on the inside. This highlights the image that the characters are simply a shell of a human, but when the layers are eventually peeled back, they are shown to be exceptionally empathetic. The movies can also act as motivation for audiences to be better than the characters in the films. For example, a dark ending, such as the one shown in The Mist, can show audiences a hopeful message through its dark storytelling. At the end of The Mist, the characters find themselves in what they see as a hopeless situation, believing they are unable to escape the monsters living within the mist. Trapped inside a car, the protagonist proceeds to kill the other passengers, including his son, but when he turns the gun on himself, he realizes he ran out of bullets. Shortly after killing everyone, the military arrives, rescuing him as his actions leave him in despair. A lesson of pursuing through hardships and persevering until the end can be extracted from such a gloomy ending. 

Hope Within the Hardships

When one goes through difficult times, one wonders why they have been allowed to suffer. Finding any good in complicated circumstances is hard, but positivity can always be found in everything. As the film’s story unravels, the characters grow and find a reason for their suffering. These quests for redemption and empathy demonstrate to viewers a way to understand their sufferings while inspiring them to make a change for the better in their lives and, hopefully, for those around them.

Blade Runner 2049 Warner Bros. Official Trailer 

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Mason Kupiainen is a recent Butler University graduate with a degree in Creative Media and Entertainment. His work has been published in Butler Collegiate, The Mall, and Byte BSU. Along with written work, he has a videography portfolio with Indy Blue Video, Byte BSU, and Ball Bearings.