Pleasantville * Gary Ross * 1998

I wouldn’t have watched this film if my TV-guide hadn’t given it such a positive review. “Fantasy” is not really my genre. The film surprised me on a few levels though. Two teenagers end up in a 1960’ies TV-series called “Pleasantville”. David, a fan, likes the idea, Jennifer is initially shocked by the ‘uncool’ clothing, haircuts and manners. “Pleasantville” is a predictable series in which everthing is always the same and plays in a small town with the same name. A nice twitch to the film is that things that are not seen in the series, do not exist in Pleasantville. There are no toilets, nothing burns and the fire-deparment does nothing but saving cats, people are not born and do not grow old and most of all: there is nothing outside of Pleasantville; “Mainstreet ends where it begins.” The best part of it, is that the inhabitents of Pleasantville know this. They even know that their world is black-and-white. David tries to keep things as they are supposed to be, but the rebellious Jennifer walks her own path. She introduces sex in Pleasantville. Since this is never shown on TV, the people of Pleasantville do nothing but holding hands and do not have a clue how their children found their ways into their houses. As Pleasantville slowly changes, colours appear in the city, people and things “suddenly appear in technicolour”. This first seems to be the result of sex (even masturbation does the trick), later the hint goes more towards love, but also this does not entirely prove to be it. The nice start grows a bit too much towards an all-American teenager film with a slightly moralistic undertone, but overall the film is well done and also gives a few things to think about.
I have been reading an article about the stone-age series “The Prisoner” in Tyr journal volume one. These series and “Pleasantville” have a few things incommon. “The village” from “The Prisoner” is a world on its own and there is nothing outside of it. “The village” and “Pleasantville” are places where the main characters ‘go to’, but in both cases, ‘the real world’ is actually just as bogus as ‘the other world’. In both productions, there seems to be an undertone critical to our modern society. Nothing should change, there is no room for (real) emotions, no room for religion, people don’t have to think. I would be surprised if this recent production called “Pleasantville” did not heavily drawn on the 1970’ies TV-series. A series that I now really want to see, thanks to Colin Cleary. For all of you how already know, or don’t want to know “The Prisoner”, “Pleasantville” may be regarded as a ‘light version’. Watch it and think about the undertone of this film. It surely puts a few things that we take for granted under a magnifying-glass.

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