What I Took From After The Dark

A while back I watched a film called After The Dark aka The Philosophers. For me personally, it could have been better executed and the ending disappointed me, but the concept behind it was really interesting regardless. The start of the film was perhaps far more interesting than the final conclusion. It was about a philosophy teacher challenging his class to make decisions in the event that the human race is nearing extinction. He did this by getting them to choose random cards, assigning them jobs and traits, and then having them choose who they would take into an underground shelter to save – there are limited resources. Throughout the film they go through a number of different scenarios. If you want to avoid spoilers then stop reading now.

At the start they explain some philosophical concepts that I found really compelling. A few of them I had already heard of like the infinite monkey theorem and train dilemma (which I happened to do an assignment on once to test how emotionally engaged we are while playing video games.) They then explored three different scenarios, explaining why they made the choices that they did. In the first one the only thing they know about each other is their job, and as you’d expect they decide to take those with the best technical skills. The teacher is also taking part, but has hidden his skills. They decide to leave him behind, only to later realize that he is the only one that knows the exit code to the bunker – he helped in its construction. As such they all get stuck inside and fail the scenario.

On the second scenario they open up their cards to reveal a trait such as sexuality, illness or infertility. This makes a massive difference to the choices they make. Once again they make logical choices based on what will give the human race the best chance to continue. This means including both men and women that are capable of breeding. After so long of trying to get pregnant and failing they discuss changing partners around, but one of the girls feels uncomfortable with this and refuses. The teacher then threatens her with a gun – presumably due to the importance of prolonging the human race – only this results in everyone getting killed.

On the final scenario only the people with non-technical skills are chosen, such as singers and poets. This time the bunker is filled with joy and creativity. Despite being locked up they can entertain themselves and all get along. There seems to be no concern or pressure in regards to continuing the human race. The teacher exclaims that they will all die due to the lack of technical skills, but he is countered with the fact that by the time death comes they will welcome it.

Each scenario felt like an exploration of art and science. What I took from this is that while we may try to form logical and what almost seems like heartless conclusions, the truth is that humans are emotional beings prone to making irrational decisions. In the first couple of scenarios they were only living for the future and survival of the race and that led them into stress and conflict. In the final scenario they are living for themselves to enjoy their last moments. During a final scene the teacher approaches one of the students, telling her that he doesn’t think the guy she is with is smart enough for her, to which she responds, ‘Intelligence isn’t everything.’ I think we would prefer to choose the people that we care about rather than the ones that we know would be good for survival. Is it more important for us to live for ourselves rather than being concerned with a future that we may not be a part of? – Then again, I believe that our way of combating mortality is to pass on our knowledge to our children.

I enjoyed the film, but with all the build up I expected a larger pay off at the end. It seemed like it was more to do with the relationship between the teacher and one of his students than a philisophical commentary. It’s almost like the film is trying to come across as being smarter than it actually is and that left me confused as to what it is actually trying to be – then again I’m not very philosophically minded. The way the characters behave is also a little odd at times. It seems like one of those things that people will either find really engaging or really dull. Either way, I thought it was a fairly unique concept with some interesting content. The little bit of humour peppered throughout was also entertaining.


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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

5 responses to “What I Took From After The Dark”

  1. Pasduil says :

    I tend to like post-apocalyptic fiction a lot, and a fair part of that is to do with the questions it raises. For example in The Walking Dead a pretty much constant theme is about what are you prepared to do or not do in order to survive. And a related theme is whether it’s even worth surviving given the kind of life that is possible and the kind of person you have to become to stay alive.

    For me though if the actual survival of the human race is at stake rather than just mine or that of my group, it’s pretty much of a no-brainer. Whether humanity becomes extinct would vastly outweigh whether the rest of my years were enjoyable or not.

    What qualities would be most likely to help the chances of survival are another matter. I doubt practical skills alone are all that counts. Even from the point of view of survival, people who can boost morale and reinforce the will to live and to face up to the hardships would be just as important.

    • wallcat says :

      Yeah it is interesting. I like a lot of games that actually allow you to explore those choices and their consequences (rather than just using it to set the scene for the action.) It’s difficult for me to say how I would behave unless faced with that actual situation. Logically I can consider what sounds like the most appropriate action to take, but whether I could have the strength to make certain sacrifices for the greater good I’m not sure. Yeah, we often overlook the importance of needing the morale support as well. In a few Bear Grylls survival shows he has mentioned the importance of staying positive on the surface for everyone’s sake, even if deep down we’re terrified. I guess what I figured from this film is that choosing isn’t as simple as just picking the people with the most practical skills. There are allsorts of considerations to make, including emotional ones. I wish the film had focussed on this aspect more and presented a clearer message. I did think it a bit odd that the creative people wouldn’t at least try to survive and continue on. I hadn’t really thought past the surviving part much before, but I guess the final quality of life is also a major factor.

      • Pasduil says :

        The idea of any bunch of people who are facing probable death in the near future a) having a joyous time and b) not trying to survive is pretty far-fetched, it seems to me. It might be credible though that if they became certain that there is zero chance of long-term survival they would come to terms with the reality of that and decide to at least make the most of what little life they have left. You can see that kind of attitude in some people who know they haven’t got long to live because of illness etc. It doesn’t really have anything to do with being creative though as far as I can see.

        What might help more is the stories we read and loved long before we ever got into that situation. When I’ve found myself in deep holes in real life things like Tolkien have helped me deal with them much better than I might have otherwise.

        I’d take inspiration from Theoden if not from anyone I was actually with.

      • wallcat says :

        That is a great scene. I resort to my games and books to help me to deal as well. Not everybody seems to understand the full value of stories, but even though they’re not real-life they’re a big part of who we are. A part of me thinks that we would have such a strong survival instinct that even if the odds were massively stacked against us we’d still fight to the very end. I think that fighting would be a way of coping, but then again, if it’s inevitable I’d want to spend that time being happy with my friends and family. I imagine it’d eat away at you, and yet I’ve seen some amazing people with terminal illness that are still smiling – Then again I’ve previously considered that such people sometimes do more with what they have than what many do in an entire lifetime. I guess there are too many variables and we’d act differently depending on the circumstances or the type of person that we are. I might not have fully understood the meaning behind the film, but when I looked it up there seemed to be very little conclusion to it.

      • Pasduil says :

        People can react to a bad situation with any of the “stages of grief”, and bounce around between those reactions too. Fighting hard while there’s still some chance is a very healthy response, and so is making your peace with the inevitable – when it really is inevitable – and spending your remaining time with family etc. People don’t always respond in healthy ways though, and that’s where others around them could make a difference. Like with the Theoden example where his leadership lifts people who are about ready to give up, and gets them fired up to fight.

        One key difference with real life situations and fiction like LOTR is that people aren’t usually faced with the end of everything they cared about. People take a lot of comfort from knowing their families are doing well, the next generation is thriving etc.

        What might most reinforce your will to survive in a post-apocalyptic scenario is having people around that you really care about, especially your kids, or maybe even any kids.

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