Dark City

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German title Dark City
Original title Dark City
Country of production United States , Australia
original language English
Publishing year 1998
length 100 minutes
Director’s Cut : 111 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Alex Proyas
script Alex Proyas
Lem Dobbs
David S. Goyer
production Andrew Mason
Alex Proyas
music Trevor Jones
camera Dariusz Wolski
cut Dov Hoenig

Dark City is an American feature film released in 1998 , written and directed by Alex Proyas . John Murdoch, played by Rufus Sewell , is said to be a woman murderer but has no memory. When his memory slowly comes back, he has to grapple with a secret that lies over his always dark hometown. William Hurt , Kiefer Sutherland and Jennifer Connelly are the other main characters in this science fiction film . The film opened in German cinemas on August 27, 1998.


John Murdoch wakes up in a bathtub in a hotel room with no memory . He is led by the doctor Dr. Called Daniel Schreber, who told him to leave the hotel immediately because a group - called "the strangers" in the film - was hunting him. Murdoch escapes them and learns that he has a wife named Emma and that he is a wanted serial killer . He doesn't remember any of the murders and has no need to commit another.

He notices strange things going on in the city that seem to be related to the "strangers". At a certain time, all city dwellers fall into a deep sleep, time stands still, it is always night in the city and it seems impossible to leave it. Almost every resident remembers a holiday village called "Shell Beach" that they have visited in the past. However, when specifically asked, no one remembers how to get there. But the strangest thing seems to be the telekinetic powers that both Murdoch and the “strangers” have.

Meanwhile, Inspector Frank Bumstead is investigating the murders Murdoch is suspected of. Bumstead's colleague Walenski, who was investigating the case before him, was apparently driven insane by a discovery. Bumstead quickly suspects that Murdoch is not the killer, but the victim of a conspiracy. Murdoch is also being hunted by Mr. Hand, one of the strangers who received his memories to track him down.

Murdoch and Bumstead force Dr. Schreber to reveal the story of the "strangers" to them. The city is a big laboratory in which the "strangers" observe people. The "strangers" are looking for something that humans have and that they need to survive as their race is perishing. Obviously it is about the human soul , the individuality . The “strangers” put the entire city to sleep and manipulate (“tune”) the matter of the buildings ( morphing ) and the memories of the residents in order to determine which human characteristics and behaviors are innate and which are based on experience. However, some residents wake up during the manipulation and are left with no memories whatsoever. This happened to both Murdoch and Walenski.

Murdoch, Bumstead and Schreber reach a poster showing Shell Beach. Murdoch and Bumstead break in the wall behind the poster to escape the city. Empty space appears in the hole in the wall. The "strangers" attack the group. Bumstead shoots down some "strangers" who then kill him by flying out into space. The city is just a large space station facing away from the sun. The "strangers" catch Murdoch and force Dr. Schreber to overwrite his memories. However, Schreber uses other memories that he has created in advance. In these memories he explains to Murdoch everything he knows about the “strangers” and also trains him in tuning. Murdoch is now able to fight the "strangers" and finally defeats them. With his abilities he turns the space station towards the sun or creates it for the city. At the gates of the city he also creates “Shell Beach”. He also meets his wife again. However, she has since received new memories, is now called Anna and does not remember Murdoch. Still, she immediately seems to have sympathy for Murdoch, and a new future together is foreshadowed.


The plot of the film is a typical example of a dystopia . The film primarily deals with the question of what memory is and how people can assume that it is real.

The film makes clear reference to films of German Expressionism . In particular Robert Wiene's Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang's Metropolis , but also Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's Nosferatu, provide templates for Dark City . In addition, strong borrowings were made from film noir , the stylistic successor to expressionist film. After all, the style of Dark City is often compared with Terry Gilliam's films , especially with the dystopian satire Brazil (1985), which since its release has become extremely style-defining for the dark and anachronistic mixing of expressionist and noir elements in modern films.

The arbitrary changes in the memories and also in the social circumstances of the city dwellers are reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges ' short story "Lottery in Babylon". The “strangers” are strongly reminiscent of the gray men from “ Momo ”.

The film also contains numerous references to "Memories of a Nervous Illness" by Daniel Paul Schreber , after which the role of Dr. Daniel Poe Schreber was named. The role of John Murdoch has biblical allusions. One of them is the number of the room Murdoch wakes up in: The room has the number 614. In the Bible , chapter John 6:14 refers to the appearance of Jesus .

The main theme of the film, the city that is operated as an experiment by aliens, can also be found in the science fiction novel The Experiment by Arkadi and Boris Strugazki (written 1969–1975, published 1989).

The film uses u. a. of the teachings of Plato . As a result, it is often compared to other films from the period that also allude to these teachings, such as Matrix , The Thirteenth Floor and eXistenZ . While the idea that sensory perceptions are not real is n't new to science fiction , Dark City poses the question of our memories and what they mean to us.

Film critic Roger Ebert was a well-known fan of the film and did the audio commentary on the DVD .

Director's Cut

On July 29, 2008, exactly ten years after the release of the theatrical version on DVD, the film was re-released in the USA as a Director's Cut on both DVD and Blu-ray . In addition to newly developed special effects and a making-of, the new film version contains longer film music and longer image cuts.

The main changes are:

  • In the opening sequence, Dr. Schreber's monologue from the off, and the scene in which the city falls asleep is also omitted. Both scenes have been moved to later scenes in the film to reinforce the city's secrets at the beginning of the film.
  • The special effects of John's "tuning" ability are much more sophisticated (up to the showdown with Mr. Book), indicating that he needs to fully develop his skills first.
  • During Emma's appearances in the bar, Jennifer Connelly's real voice is used (at least in the original), while Anita Kelsey sings in the theatrical version.
  • Scenes with an overall view of the city were optically enhanced by special effects (rays of light, traces of smoke).
  • Brand new scenes:
    • John's fingerprints correspond to the spiral shape that is also found on the murder victims.
    • May has a daughter who witnesses her mother's murder hiding under her bed. In her hiding place she paints a picture of the murder that Bumstead sees. From then on at the latest he knows that John is not the killer. In addition, the daughter is one reason that John leaves May relatively early.
    • Various additional scenes that suggest that Bumstead is becoming more and more aware that something is wrong with the world.


“A fantasy mix of science fiction, horror and gangster films with strong echoes of 'film noir'. Although the film impresses with the extraordinary special effects and the very suggestive music, it does not find any independent statement beyond the eclectic piecing together of thoughts and set pieces. "


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Clearance Certificate for Dark City . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , May 2012 (PDF; test number: 80 252 V).
  2. Hicks, Adrienne. "DARK CITY" (1998): Critical Review and Bibliography ( Memento from March 19, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Blackwelder, Rob. VISIONS OF 'STRANGERS' DANCE IN HIS HEAD: 30 minutes with 'Dark City' writer-director Alex Proyas , SPLICEDwire
  4. Dunne, Susan (2006). Welcome To Dystopia At Trinity's Cinestudio , Hartford Courant, February 23rd, 2006
  5. ^ Fisher, Russ (2008). Why Dark City is What The Fuck? ( Memento of December 8, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), chud.com
  6. ^ 'Dark City' , Hayden Reviews, March 9th, 2009
  7. Maciak, Luke (2010). Dark City , Terminally Incoherent, October 15th, 2010
  8. Wroblewski, Greg. Dark City (1998) , Scoopy.com
  9. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PlatonicCave
  10. Dark City. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed June 19, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used