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Dystopia in Films The Minority Report and The Trial

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A dystopian society is one opposite of a utopia. A dystopia is a futuristic society or community that is often unfavorable, dehumanizing, and in a catastrophic state where oppressive societal control takes place. Throughout this course, we have been analyzing films that take place in this sort of environment. Characters in these types of movies are often battling technological control, government tyranny, and/or environmental disintegration. Dystopian fiction has been created with the goal of educating humanity on the possible dangers of current political and societal practices and structures as a response to utopian literature, an imaginative reality that is intended to appeal to readers. These films are important in understanding the ideas and characteristics that surround a dystopian society. There are a multitude characteristics of dystopian fiction, but the ones that I will be analyzing throughout this paper include technological control and government control.

The Minority Report is a film based on the 1956 short story, “The Minority Report”, written by Philip K. Dick and was the first film to have an entirely digital production design. The screenplay was written by Scott Frank and John Conen and features the stars Tom Cruise as chief John Anderton, Colin Farrell as Danny Witwer, Samantha Morton as Agama, and Max von Sydow, director Lamar Burgess. In the movie, predetermination, predictions, and preventive actions all play major roles in the ruling of a society and the crimes that transpire within it. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie takes place in Washington, D.C. in the year 2054 A.D. and features an elite law enforcement group, “pre-crime”, that essentially eliminates crime by utilizing humans with special powers, called “pre-cogs” who can see into the future and predict murders before they happen. The main character, chief John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, who can also be seen as a dystopian protagonist, is predicted by one of the pre-cogs, Agna, to be a murderer himself within the next 36 hours. He goes to major lengths to prove his innocence and present the flaws in the pre-cog predictions. John Anderton ends up seeking out Dr. Hineman, the creator of pre-crime who then tells him that Agna may have access to the minority report that entails the alternative future which was hidden in order to maintain the organization’s credibility. Anderton steals Agna to obtain his minority report and finds and seemingly kills Leo Crow, the man who lied about killing/kidnapping his son for financial compensation, the reason that led Anderton to initially becoming involved with pre-crime. In the end of the film, pre-crime is shut down and the prisoners who were captured before their predicted crimes took place are then released and the pre-cogs are sent away to an undisclosed location where they can essentially live in peace.

The tech issues of the pre-cogs and overall pre-crime organization put the justice system in major jeopardy. John Anderton was framed and falsely accused because the death of Crow was actually proven to be a suicide. Another example of the discrepancies surrounding pre-crime is the murder of Anne Lively, Agna’s mother. It was also proved by Witwer, the man who claimed Anderton was falsely accused, that there were two separate attempts of the taking of her life. One was stopped by pre-crime, however, a second attempt took place seconds later which ultimately resulted in her death. This plot is representative of how the technological advancements within the pre-crime organization were unreliable and overall ineffective. The notion of future justice in this film is centered around the predictions from the pre-cogs and the notion that everyone who appears in such predictions should be punished before the actual crimes take place in order to combat the high crime rate. In the dystopian society, the pre-crime organization is seen as a program that eliminates the need for conventional detectives. This results in many legal issues that put the justice system in jeopardy. The legal issues involved in the film are that the predicted murderers did not actually commit the crimes before being sentenced to “suspended animation”, which is basically another form of the death sentence. These murders were often not premeditated which, in today’s society, would have adverse implications and sentences. For example, the predicted murderers should have been sent to some sort of mental facility or be put on probation rather than be put in a temporary cessation. This type of punishment is inhumane and not just to the potential crimes that were only predicted to be committed. There were also a multitude of discrepancies in the pre-cogs predictions as stated above. This resulted in the corruption of the pre-crime organization because they attempted to hide the fact that there were alternative futures and contradicting results of the predicted crimes. This led to innocent people being captured and imprisoned. Another unjust tech practice that can be seen in the film is the environment that the pre-cogs were placed into. Their living conditions were poor and they were placed in solitude to be unfairly treated and utilized solely for their unconventional futuristic super powers. They were seen as technological advancements rather than human beings and were used in an unjust and unethical way. The argument that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” doesn’t necessarily reign true in this specific film. This can be portrayed through the eyes of John Anderton and his struggle of being falsely persecuted. The film shows his involvement with the pre-crime organization and his perspective of all the complications that surround the overall structure of this futuristic program. He did not have anything to hide considering he was the chief of the organization and a notable figure, however, he had a lot to fear when the Agna’s prediction of his crime was released, thus leading to his subsequent preventive actions of being captured.

Overall, The Minority Report is representative of a dystopian future with a corrupt justice system due to the technological advancements within the society. As artificial intelligence is becoming more prevalent in today’s society, we must be aware of the potential threats of our current legal structures and practices. The film represents that the surrender of our privacy, liberties, and individual freedoms in the quest for a world without crime can ultimately have detrimental effects.

The Trial is a film based on the novel, “The Trial”, written by Frank Kafka between 1914 and 1915, electronically published in 1925 after his death. He was a major literary figure of the 20th century and his work often features a combination of the characteristics of realism and the fantastic. The protagonists in his novels are often confronted with predicaments that result from governmental situations that defy reason, and this movie is no different. The film was directed by Orson Welles and produced by Alexander Salkind. It stars Anthony Perkins as Josef K., Jeanne Moreau as Fraulein Burstner, Romy Schneider as Leni, Akim Tamiroff as Bloch, and Elsa Martinelli as Hilda. It takes on various angles and allows for a multitude of diverse interpretations from its presentation of social tensions and lack of civil rights. There are also some humorous aspects throughout that draw away from its dreary and serious essence. The film surrounds a convicted man, Josef K., who is unaware of the crimes he has committed. He is interrupted in the middle of the night by what is seemingly a police officer, who has no identification, and is told by the man and his posse that he is under open arrest. He is not taken into custody, but goes through a series of strange, unvalidated events. Throughout the film, Josef attempts to defend himself from this unknown crime and ends up being condemned to death, but survives because the executioners fail at the task. The Trial depicts bureaucratic control and the effects it has on one’s mental state. Josef K. is the main protagonist and he experiences a catastrophic mental shift due to the oppressive state that he is put under and totally changes how he interacts with people and institutions from start to finish. At the start, he’s sort of an arrogant, strong-minded man but slowly transforms into a depressed, crazed state. The film follows Josef throughout his entire journey of paranoia due to the unconventional prosecutions of the government in charging people without any formalities. It also represents the psychological process of the accused and Josef’s acceptance of being unknowingly at fault. There are several legal issues presented in this film surrounding the notion of future justice.

Josef is arrested for a crime that he is never told about, prosecuted without a fair trial, and receives no lawyer. In a criminal trial in today’s society, those persecuted have the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, have access to all relevant information, and overall have the right to a fair trial. Josef K. was not given any of these rights which is exemplary of the corrupt futuristic justice system shown in the film. The entire system, from the judge advocate to the police force, is plagued with fraudulent activity. In the end of the film, Josef K. finds acceptance in his sentence and is eventually convinced he is guilty. He is completely dominated by the corrupt society, and abandons all desire to live. The ending scene represents these internal struggles and overbearing thoughts by depicting Josef in a state of despair when he is waiting to be executed outside of town in a quarry, an analogy for digging his own grave. There are less tech issues presented in this film that put justice in jeopardy compared to The Minority Report, if any at all. The film is centered around governmental control, rather than technological control and the oppressive state that its futuristic society is placed under. However, the legal issues presented in the film (stated above) put the protagonist in a detrimental state and inhibit his abilities to prove his innocence. Similar to The Minority Report, the statement that, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” is invalidated in this film. Josef K. has nothing to hide, as he is an ordinary bank employee who believes he has done nothing that requires legal action. Yet, he is shunned from society and institutions and receives an unjust sentence.

Overall, The Trial is representative of a dystopian film with a corrupt justice system due to the mistreatment of Josef K. and his experiences with governmental control and the unjust proceedings that take place within the futuristic society. In our current society and government, there are sometimes arguable instances of abuse of power. We must be aware of these instances and be able to identify when unjust practices are taking place to ensure a justice system that successfully protects our rights as U.S. citizens.

Furthermore, the dystopian films that were analyzed throughout this paper are important in allowing us to think critically, adapt to the changes that take place within our society and communities, and ensure our future justice system is intact. The significant problems and internal struggles the protagonists face in these movies are exemplary of how technology and the lack of privacy can tear us apart and the detrimental effects of an oppressive government system. The characters each face a myriad of oppressions and must learn how to combat these issues, similar to certain experiences that people face today. The youth can benefit from watching these types of films by understanding what an unnavigable system looks like. The upcoming generation will experience powerlessness from suffering from the disregard of climate change, the economic crash, and increasing inequalities that take place on a social and financial level that are presented from the previous generation. With the rise of rampant disinformation being spread and fake news being circulated, the need for fact-based reporting is greater than ever. These dystopian films allow for thought provoking questions about the current legal system and technological advancements. Without this genre of fiction, there would be less awareness of the political issues that dystopian fiction works to address and more ignorance towards these real-world problems.

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Dystopia In Films The Minority Report And The Trial. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
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