Things to Come – H. G. Wells’ Things to Come (1936)
Directed by: William Cameron Menzies | 100 minutes | science fiction | Actors: Raymond Massey, Edward Chapman, Ralph Richardson, Margaretta Scott, Cedric Hardwicke, Maurice Braddell, Sophie Stewart, Derrick De Marney, Ann Todd, Pearl Argyle, Kenneth Villiers, Ivan Brandt, Anne McLaren, Patricia Hilliard, Charles Carson
In 1940 the city of ‘Everytown’, with St. Paul’s Cathedral prominently depicted in London, has an unmistakable nervous Christmas atmosphere. Despite the beautifully decorated Christmas trees, presents for everyone and lovely Christmas carols, the war that is about to break out in Europe is on everyone’s mind. Raymond Passworthy (Edward Chapman) consoles himself with the thought that Europe is far away and that wars often threaten, but his friend John Cabal (Raymond Massey) is pessimistic and proves right. The story continues in 1966 when in ruins of ‘Everytown’ people afflicted with the mysterious ‘errant disease’ are shot to avoid infecting healthy residents. By 1970, the disease has been largely contained and the local warlord ‘The Boss’ (Ralph Richardson) tries to assemble an air fleet to expand his empire of power.
Then John Cabal lands with an advanced air vehicle. He has survived all events and announces that the organization ‘Wings over the World’, founded by scientists and pilots and operating from their headquarters in Basra, alone can save civilization by breaking the power of the warlords at war and bringing peace and prosperity. for the population through advancing science and technology. ‘The Boss’ does not like this and has Cabal imprisoned.
‘Things to Come’ is a series of pitch-black visions on ‘La condition humaine’. Shooting people who suffer from the terribly contagious ‘errant disease’ is an unpromising vision of man when he feels threatened by something he does not know. And when the film ends in 2036, after years of peace and prosperity, the point has been reached for the umpteenth time in history that riots threaten again. This time caused by the rift between scientists who believe that any scientific innovation is only good for humanity and ordinary people who feel threatened by this technological progress.
‘Things to Come’ commands great respect due to the beautiful design of the many technical gadgets and inventions and the successful interplay of image and sound. It is wonderful when Raymond Passworthy enlists after the announcement of the mobilization and hits his suitcase as if it were a drum and you indeed hear a drum. And also that his son marches as a game and you see marching soldiers pass by in the background. These are beautiful echoes. But due to the fragmentary nature of the film and the often inimitable, long-winded digressions about, for example, the salvation of technical progress, often presented in a very heavy way, it is a tough sit.