“In terms of the ethnicity of the people left behind on Earth, [director] Neill [Blomkamp] wanted to suggest that the borders of the entire Western atmosphere [?] were all porous now. There was no point in having borders because there were no resources anywhere. So you end up with all these languages spoken and all these different ethnicities. There are a lot of Latinos, but there are a lot of white people, too. More than anything, it was about economic deprivation. There is nothing left on the planet, and we’re all trying to scratch out our existence. He wanted to create the feeling that we’re all in this soup together.”
So, under no borders, all those brown people will still need a white hero to lead them, like in Lawrence of Arabia on down. The reporter writes:
Like Blomkamp’s debut film, 2009’s Oscar-nominated District 9, an allegory about apartheid, Elysium lays out its social commentary early and clearly, then sets out to give the audience a breakneck ride. The movie’s prime objective is to entertain, not preach, so it’s only after the end credits have rolled that you start contemplating its exploration of class differences and the importance of universal health care.
Okay, except that Damon goes on to explain to the oblivious interviewer what District 9 was really about:
“Neill doesn’t aspire to make message movies,” Damon says. “I’ve thought more about the themes in District 9 than I would have if it had been a straight-up movie about Zimbabwe and refugees from South Africa. The aesthetic of science-fiction makes it really interesting and cool, but it’s also ripe for meaning and interpretation. You sit and reflect on it. It sits with you longer, I think.”
I was asking black South Africans about black Nigerians and Zimbabweans. That’s actually where the idea came from was there are aliens living in South Africa, I asked “What do you feel about Zimbabwean Africans living here?” And those answers — they weren’t actors, those are real answers…
WSJ: “Elysium” takes on topics of class, health care, and immigration. What prompted you to address these issues?
Blomkamp: I don’t know if “addressing issues” is the right way of putting it, because if you go about things with the mindset where you wake up one morning and go, “I’m going to address this important political issue,” you shouldn’t be making popcorn blockbuster films. …
I think growing up in South Africa, and then moving to Canada, I’m just genuinely interested in the difference between the first world and the third world, immigration, and how the new, globalized world is beginning to operate. All of those things run through my mind a lot.
Having read all these interviews with Blomkamp, who isn’t the most seamlessly articulate guy in the world (at least not in English), his recurrent tic is that whenever he brings up a topic — Malthusianism, transhumanism, immigration, etc. — that he knows the interviewer will automatically interpret differently than he does, he just says he finds the subject “interesting.”
WSJ: Do you think of this film in terms of First World vs. Third World rather than 1% vs. 99%?
Blomkamp: They’re not exactly the same. The 1% lexicon of phrases and terminology is incredibly American. That’s very specific to America. This film isn’t really that. It’s much more international. The 1% is a catchphrase that is thrown around at the moment. You could go back to the feudal ages and you have people living in castles and you have a thousand serfs on your land that were considered your property. This is nothing new at all. That kind of separation between power and wealth and then the working class, the poverty-stricken class, has been around for millennia. What’s happening now with this globalized planet is there are other ingredients being mixed into that. The way that those population groups move, like how Africa is predominantly poverty-stricken, and North America predominantly has money — whether America is in a recession or not isn’t the point, the point is the glass of America appears a lot fuller than the glass of Africa. As those reservoirs of wealth equalize, the pockets of wealth diminish and the poorer areas increase in wealth, a lot of really interesting stuff happens. Part of that is the rich try to preserve what they have more, while the poor want wealth more at the same time. The movie is really about that.