Friday, January 16, 2015

The Man in the High Castle


Amazon.com has produced an excellent television adaptation of Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle. The series currently consists of a single pilot episode. Ridley Scott was one of the executive producers.

The pilot features good writing, acting, directing, editing, cinematography, and production design. As noted in this review at Wired.com, the primary flaw is some weak CGI in establishing shots of New York City. Hopefully this problem can be sorted out (more practical effects?) should the pilot be turned into a series.


I was particularly impressed by how the writing and production design handled the series' alternate history premise in a convincing fashion. This is something that's really easy to get wrong. The pilot showed a nation which was still distinctly American in culture, but with a layer or sliver of Japanese and German culture imposed on top in characteristic imperialist fashion.


The pilot also depicted a material culture which was a combination of technology and design from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. You might think that this is a flaw, but to my mind it gets things exactly right. There is an inherent conservatism to the material culture of totalitarian regimes, both because of economic stagnation (think of the Soviet Union, or for a more extreme version, Cuba), and because of the regime's suppression of the novelty and innovation characteristic of the material culture of liberal democracies. One shouldn't expect a 1962 America ruled by the Axis powers to look like it came from an episode of Mad Men.



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