Monday, May 14, 2012

The Road Warrior: Dust and Debris

With the exception of Blade Runner (which it predates by a year), is any film universe so deeply polluted as The Road Warrior? The film's script opens with the phrase "Flurries of dust and sand" - a central image which never leaves us:

We move in dust, each step or tire spin kicking up a new swirl. We cannot help but produce it - the land itself is disrupted by our very presence. With the dust comes the debris. Each major action in the film leaves behind a plume of dust and a wake of debris which overwhelms the senses and occasionally the lens:

What is this debris? Junk, mostly. Crushed plastic, unwieldy yards of fabric, deformed metal, broken glass. Wherever we go, we travel in a flurry of this junk:

All manners of stuff swirls around us like Pig Pen, like the debris clouds in The Stars My Destination, like all humanity is nothing more than an avatar of the Great Pacific Garbage Heap.

In school you learn to categorize dramatic conflict as man against man or man against nature. Here we have both, but they intersect at a common front: man against his possessions. In the end, I know of no other movie which explores just how much crap we accumulate. We're slaves to it, huddled in a besieged compound because we need to suck out of the earth more goo nobody in their right mind would want to be around:

Our hero Pappagallo warns of going "out there with the garbage," meaning-but-not-really Lord Humongous's gang. But there's garbage inside, too. There's garbage as far as the eye can see. We're practically drowning in clutter and filth and there's remarkably little we can do about it:

Tires in particular are everywhere in this film, engulfing us:

Even exploding out of the earth like geysers:

And tires are a perfect symbol for the debris trap in this film - huge, ungainly and unsightly against the earth. I get tired just looking at them, thinking about how much of that desert heat they've absorbed. Yet they are totally and non-negotiably essential for our continued life on this earth. Just like Max's squeaky leg brace or the suffocating hockey mask which presumably protects Lord Humongous's face from the ravages of the desert air:

All of our stuff, the stuff we kill over, the stuff which literally buries us alive:

It's all insurance against nature, which desecrates us at every opportunity:

So we hide from the sun and the dust in our hot, cramped little hovels just suffocated with stuff:

Because what the hell else can we do?

And where are we at the film's end? We've left a debris trail of a few dozen vehicles cluttering the highway. Our precious tanker? A big piece of junk filled with dust, just as it was in the beginning.:

And we drive off, throwing more dust into the air, and we stay put, another rusty piece of debris on the side of the road:

Awash in pollution, just like the fallen society we're warned of at the film's beginning. Out there with the garbage.

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