Soylent Green (1973) – When Science Fiction turns into reality!

Cast: Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson.

Director: Richard Fleischer

“The year: 2022

The place: New York City

The population: 40,000,000”

Screenshot: Charlton Heston gulping water during an exceptional day in the year 2022.

A grim future where pollution and depleted resources make life painful. Citizens go to museums not to admire art, but to see some of the few last living trees. The oceans are dying. Food is a commodity and synthetic in nature, artificially-colored biscuits and margarine. Water is rationalized and mainly used for drinking. There is social segregation and daily unrest. Rich people living in protected areas separated by high-concrete walls and moats from the “poor”. The rest of the population lives in agony under open sky or crammed in buildings guarded by machine-gun-equipped security agents. A fantastic world for the people of 1973!

The movie is (“loosely”) based on the 1966 science fiction novel “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison and revolves around the exploits of a “relatively” honest cop, Charlton Heston, assigned to solve a murder case. The victim was what we would call today a potential whistle-blower. Nothing sophisticated, no thick, impenetrable plot fabric. Hadn’t been for its five-star cast (alongside Heston, a masterful Edward G. Robinson, one of the biggest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age) no critic would give it more than a B-category “mark”. Yesterday, I rewatched the movie, but instead of aesthetic satisfaction I got a bitter taste. This time the scene that impressed me the most was a totally different one. Charlton Heston, the chief investigator, comes to investigate a murder in an apartment of the rich. While carrying out his duty, he opens a tap and lets the water run, fascinated by its flow. Then, he “touches” it and gulps a mouthful of water. What was a science fiction movie in the 1970’s it is nowadays a prevailing reality in many places of the world. Water scarcity affects today more than 1 billion people! In the last years the so-called “Day Zero” (period of severe water shortage potentially leading to dry water conduits) has alarmingly increased in frequency in various parts of the world. The recent wildfires that wreaked havoc in Australia occurred in the context of severe drought. Human-driven climate change still denied by countless corrupted politicians all over the world!

In this undesirable future there is still hope. The truth can set humanity free. There are still “underground” libraries and churches where the truth lives and is spread out. I will not give you more details about this excellent movie and I invite you to watch or rewatch it. Soylent green is …