The heat wave, the energy crisis and the climatic outlook are hardly encouraging… And invite us to think that the dystopian future painted by George Miller in his “Mad Max” saga is not as distant as one might think. ..
“I remember a time of chaos, a time of shattered dreams, of shattered lands… But above all, I remember the warrior of the road. The man we called Max. To understand who was this man, you have to go back to another time when the world ran on black fuel and great cities of tubes and steel flourished in the deserts… Disappeared now, swept away…
For reasons now forgotten, two powerful tribes went to war, lighting a fire that devoured them both. Without fuel, they were nothing. Their empire was straw. The roar of the machines gasped and died away. The leaders spoke, and spoke… And spoke again. But nothing could stem the disaster.
Their world collapsed… Cities exploded, causing a tornado of looting. A searing wind of terror. The man began to feed on the man. On the roads reigned the nightmare of the white line. Only the most mobile buccaneers, the most ruthless looters survived…
Gangs took control of the roads ready to go to war over a can of fuel. In this maelstrom of rot, ordinary mortals were broken, crushed. Men like Max, Max the warrior. In the roar of an engine, he had lost everything…
And he became a drained, consumed, ravaged man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered aimlessly through the wastelands. It was here, in this accursed place, that he learned to live again…”
Mad Max, the survivalist
You may have recognized the opening narrator’s voice-over prologue Mad Max 2, supported by an anxiety-provoking montage of more or less archival images showing a civilization collapsing in on itself. In reality, george miller threw from the matrix film of his Post-Apocalyptic saga in 1979 the foundations of a dystopian world plagued by chaos and subject to the law of the strongest.
It was moreover a friend who had advised him, quite rightly, to introduce into his film the effects of the first oil crisis which occurred in 1973, which had major consequences on oil imports into Australia.
madmax shared its backdrop with Green Sun, released just a year after the first oil shock. Forced industrial development and its ravages, the uncontrolled effects of over-consumption and the depletion of natural resources – fossil fuels in particular such as oil – have completed the mortgaging of the future of mankind in just a few decades.
Disappointing tomorrows are common in science fiction; a genre that by definition reflects our fears of social or technological change. In Green Sunthe cataclysm happened by erosion: the end of the world by the disappearance of an element essential to our existence, in this case water and food.
But the agony of the human species was slow and progressive – as the extraordinary opening credits emphasize -; the time needed to deplete the planet’s resources. madmax is even more radical: Humanity is almost sent back to the Stone Age after a nuclear war.
A more dystopian future than that…
Last February, the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established in 1988, delivered a new report, absolutely devastating. Episodes of heat waves such as we are currently experiencing will be very frequent. And even amplified.
In October 2021, the British daily Telegraph headlined an article as follows: “How Mad Max Prophesied Britain’s Fuel Crisis”. A situation that has hardly improved, and even worsened. “The United Kingdom in Mad Max mode” can we read in Le Courrier international, taking up an article published in the Daily Telegraph in April 2022.
“The UK is facing its biggest oil crisis in years, affecting millions of people who need to heat their homes, fill up their cars and cook. The war in Ukraine has caused the gasoline and diesel prices. The Mad Max movies were inspired by the oil shock of the 1970s: in 2022, it looks less fiction than reality.”
In Mad Max Fury Road, george miller pushes even further the paroxysm of a decomposing society, which fetishizes more than ever (apart from the car) oil, more precious than life (for some, in any case…). Immortan Joe, lord of the war reigning from the top of the Citadel, calms the ardor of the plebs by opening the valves of the gigantic water pumps to them from time to time to satiate them. Not too; just enough to keep her under his tyrannical dependence.
“I’m just telling a story in response to how I view the world”
“There’s an environmental story, but it’s in the subtext of the film. The sad thing is that it doesn’t really take a lot of exposure for the audience to buy into this degraded world, because we already see evidence of this all around us” said Miller in a interesting interview from an Australian organ in April 2015.
The monstrous storms of film, a sort of fictional counterpart to gigantic current Dust Bowls ? Absolutely. “In the movie, we call them toxic storms. But even that’s not too far from the truth. In Australia, when conditions are right, these large dust storms move across the landscape and often into cities.
In the middle of the day, the sun is eclipsed by this mass of red dust. I got caught up in a few of them; like most Australians. We just go further in the film. But he’s not trying to chronicle the world’s environmental collapse. He said, “Here is the world that remains. […] In my film, there is no ideological agenda. I’m just telling a story in response to how I see the world.”
No political or ideological agenda in Mad Max Fury Road ? Maybe, if he says so. Nevertheless, Miller the septuagenarian delivered a cinematographic experience in the form of a sacred uppercut. Thirty years after the last opus of the saga madmax, he revisited the myth that he himself had created in a totally crazy show. A work full of sound… and fury precisely. To see or see again on Netflix.