First of all – I’m a huge fan of the works of Philip K. Dick, him being one of those authors in the 20th century who not only filled their worlds with visions of the future but also with ideas of societies, technological possibilities and fears that may look threatening today. Like George Orwell and Aldus Huxley he built possible futures that were dominated by your worst nightmares.
In the novel “The Man in the High Castle” we – the reader – are confronted with an alternate universe where Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire won the Second World War and conquered the USA. The novel was written and does play in the early 60s (1962 to be specific). Unfortunately I haven’t read all of Philip’s works and this is one of them, due to this TV adaption my curiosity grew stronger and I will read it soon afterwards.
Amazon Studios took the novel and produced a show for the small screen. A very tough decision nowadays but maybe the time is right to take a look back at what may have been possible, a couple of decades ago. Some days before the launch on Amazon Prime they even went so far and put advertisements – who were not easy to recognise as such – on the New York Underground. Yes, imagine seats and wagons filled with emblems of Nazi Germany. How confusing that may look for people who didn’t know that there is a show behind that. People got angry and refused to sit on those seats and the New York Underground took those advertisements down.
Back to the show – the story starts in New York and San Francisco where we see people who are trying to make their living, each of them confronted with different suppressors. On the west coast the Japanese Empire is ruling the land and on the other side o f the US, on the east coast we see Nazis ruling the cities. First we get introduced to Juliana and John, both who get involved in missions for the so-called Man in the High Castle, a collector of films. They both have to travel to the Neutral Zone, an area between both rivalling parties to meet each other and give the films to a contact they haven’t met before. As you may imagine, it goes awry and the have to run for their lives. The first third concentrates on those two characters and their way of struggling with escaping and falling in love, only a little bit.
Later on in the series we get closer looks on the other players within the story – and from my point of view they are far more important. Many of them try to play a game, a game where their intentions will uphold in hoping that it will a have a major effect on the things to come.
Especially the second half of the show was filled with that, the love triangle story, the drama became less important and the cultural aspects pushed forward. We even get some insights in the Japanese culture, their way of handling the needs of society, their ethic codes and their brutality. The strict structure of Nazi Germany and their brutality may also been known and shown here but what strengthen the show also was that no character was black or white. They are human beings with feelings, hopes and fears. Yes, each and every one of them – it makes it quite difficult to hate or love some or even single persons of the story.
Overall this was produced amazingly well, there were many moments especially in the finale where I got goosebumps. Think about a world where the rules are suppressing the people and creativity, free speech and many more things are not only forbidden but you also have to fear for your life every day.
In days like these, like nowadays this becomes more and more imminent. We have systems of democracy in many countries and we see a trend that goes right in the direction where the suppressors of the past dwell. Where hate and fear dominate their politics and their speeches. Then and now they do not offer chances for improvement but only play with the fears of the people.
While watching this show I thought about what may happen to the world if we start building frontiers again, if we continue to suppress others because of religion, politics or any other reason. Europe today is faced with the situation of taking care of refugees and right-wing-parties are working hard on stopping to help those people. Fortunately there is a huge part that is still helping, still there for others – for people in need.
Here – in this show – we get a picture of what a situation we may face if we as a society decide to follow leaders because we believe that it is right to do so or keep our mouth closed because we want to stay alive.
Learn from the past to go another way in the future.