Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/777/17301
Film review: Elysium - an 'allegory for class warfare'
Brettros, CWI Austria
Elysium is a dystopian sci-fi action film starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. It follows the story of Max da Costa, a factory worker living in the ruins of Los Angeles in the year 2154.
In this future, the rich and powerful have fled the poverty, disease, and environmental destruction they've wrought on the world, and moved to a space station called Elysium.
There they live in an idyllic society, far removed from ordinary people's struggles on earth.
Like director Neill Blomkamp's critically acclaimed last film District 9, Elysium uses the sci-fi genre to explore social issues.
The major difference is that instead of humans exploiting and oppressing aliens, it is the super-rich exploiting and oppressing the overwhelming majority.
Asked in an interview whether Elysium reveals how he sees Earth in 140 years, Blomkamp responded "No, no, no.
"This isn't science fiction. This is today. This is now." He sees this movie as "meant to be an allegory for class warfare."
In fact the film, representing the future Los Angeles, a hell-hole of human misery, was shot in the modern-day slums of Mexico City.
The massive divisions between rich and poor, while set in the future, reflect what already exists under capitalism today.
The pay gap between American CEOs and workers has grown by 1,000% in the last 63 years (data from Bloomberg, April 2013).
In the US McDonald's workers are told to get a second job and work over 70 hours a week to make ends meet on minimum wage; hundreds of thousands of immigrants are deported each year, tearing families apart; the rich get the world's highest-quality healthcare, while the poor get by without health insurance or struggle to maintain low-quality coverage.
Unlike films which show the oppressors' "human" side, Elysium makes no attempt to humanise the rich and powerful.
They are either seen as blithely ignorant of the inhuman system of inequality and exploitation that they benefit from, or are consciously fighting to protect that system.
When a group of gangsters try to hijack a rich executive making his way to Elysium, the audience feels no sympathy for him; it's the same executive that runs the factory that has effectively killed Max - his only chance of survival is making it to Elysium.
The film doesn't say it explicitly, but the root of the problem is capitalism. Socialists say that this system that puts short-term profits ahead of all things, from the environment to workers' living conditions, must be replaced to achieve equality and real change.
The film shows Matt Damon fighting for humankind rather than the actual organising needed to establish a society that can meet the needs of all.
Nonetheless, this is a film worth watching.
This is an edited extract from a review that appears on socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 28 August 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
'Youth Fight for Jobs' campaigning
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party reviews