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The dystopian sci-fi classic film Soylent Green was released in theaters on April 19, 1973. Next year this film turns 50! However, the setting of this film is based on this year of 2022!!!! It stars Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson in his last role before his death.
Based on the book called “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison published in 1964, Soylent Green focuses on the problem of human overpopulation and its consequences on society and politics. Much of the film’s themes are still relevant today: natural resources are at risk, people are driving animals into extinction because of urban development, big-time corporations hide the truth of their products from the populace and the list could go on.
Certain messages do come through to the viewer of this film. The beginning sequence starts slowly with 19th-century progress blowing up into what 2022 could look like: a pollution-filled world where the poor flood open spaces to sleep at night and fight for colored wafers at cheap food prices; the super-rich enjoy the rarities of real food (a bottle of strawberry jam goes for $150!).
There are two memorable moments in the film that struck a nerve. The first is when the character Sol Roth (Robinson) discovers the truth about planet earth and the hot new product soylent green and decides to commit assisted suicide at a government building. As Detective Frank Thorn (Heston) rushes to his friend, we see Roth looking at films of a bygone era of Earth’s history as green plants and dead animals are presented with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique.” Thorn laments as Roth delivers his last request to Thorn to find out the truth of soylent green right before dying; this scene is Robinson’s death mask as he died 12 days after filming. Since then, this death scene has been parodied from The Simpsons to South Park.
The second scene that remains in people’s memory is the concluding statements made by Thorn after getting seriously wounded by assassins after discovering the very truth about his world: SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!!!! Before this famous line, Thorn explains to his police chief (played by Brock Peters) that he has proof that the world’s oceans are dying and the plankton that the titular food is made from is dying off. Soylent Green is made from the dead bodies of prisoners, suicidal people, and others that mysteriously vanish.
The ending makes the viewer think about their place in the world as the credits show the exact same plants and animals that Roth and Thorn saw as Roth dies. Does this mean our doom has begun?
Did Soylent Green try to warn us of something dark coming our way? Did humanity remain ignorant of their own actions and what they do to the world? In some aspects, yes! Some warnings did come true or are coming true. We have to fix ourselves before it’s game over forever. In real life, there does exist a company called Soylent and there are stories about this company and its products…
Whenever you have a chance, take a look at this film and look for the messages about the world and Soylent Green.