Altered States: Transformation in Science Fiction Films

30 September – 16 December, 2015

Aristotle states, famously, in his Poetics, that “Characters must change”. In Science Fiction, sometimes everything changes. In this film program we look at a series of transformations, from Fritz Lang’s memorable 1927 film Metropolis to two recent adaptations of stories by the maverick Sci-Fi author Philip K. Dick: Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly. Whether it is humans changing into vegetables—as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers—or particles changing into dangerously unstable elements—as in The Magnetic Monster, which climaxes in Nova Scotia—change is constant in Science Fiction, just as it is in technology and identity today.


30 September - Metropolis

Fritz Lang, Germany, 1927, 145 mins. Now ‘complete’ with lost footage found in Argentina, Fritz Lang’s famous ‘city of the future film’ includes robots replacing humans and mass society gone wildly astray.

7 October - The Magnetic Monster

Curt Siodmak, USA, 1953, 76 mins. With an ending set in Cape Breton, and a chunk taken from a 1930s German epic, The Magnetic Monster manages to blend ‘hard’ Science Fiction with pulp elements to produce a surprisingly effective cold-war thriller about an experiment with a radioactive particle gone wrong.

14 October - Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Don Siegel, USA, 1956, 80 mins. This chilling, much-remade film sees director Don (Dirty Harry) Siegel perfectly capturing the paranoia and conformity of 1950s America, as off-world plants take over from humans who are distracted by consumerism and social climbing.

21 October - A Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick, UK, 1971, 136 mins. Anthony Burgess’s controversial futuristic novel became an even more controversial dystopian film by Stanley Kubrick. Amidst much brutalist architecture, Malcolm McDowell speaks a strange vernacular while indulging in ultra-violence. Viewers are advised that the images may be disturbing.

28 October - Solaris

Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR, 1972, 167 mins. Allegedly the Soviet Union’s response to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris tells the fluid tale of a planet that may be sentient, and the humans sent to explore it.

4 November - The Man Who Fell to Earth

Nicholas Roeg, USA/UK, 1976, 139 mins. David Bowie is mesmerizing in this lingering tale of an alien who comes to Earth for water to save his home planet, but then drifts into decadence and dissolution.

18 November - Altered States

Ken Russell, USA, 1980, 102 mins. William Hurt plays a scientist whose experiments turn Darwin’s theories of evolution backwards, as he regresses to a primal state in which instinct overcomes reason.

The Gallery will be closed for installation from 23 November to 4 December.

9 December - Minority Report

Steven Spielberg, USA, 2002, 144 mins. Mixing noir with a dark futurism, Spielberg’s Minority Report might just be the greatest of all latter-day Sci-Fi films. Tom Cruise plays an ambitious detective who can stop imminent crimes through an invasive technology. He is eventually caught up in his own web by his associates, played by Colin Farrell and Max von Sydow.

16 December - A Scanner Darkly

Richard Linklater, USA, 2006, 100 mins. American Indie champion Richard (Boyhood) Linklater’s second foray into animation tells the story of a cop on the trail of a dangerous drug that changes the nature of reality. Based on another Philip K. Dick story, almost every frame of A Scanner Darkly is about transformation.