Zsirka Richárd – The Question of Identity in Alex Proyas’ Dark City – part 2

Previously, we looked at the movie Dark City and the ambiguous question that arises in it from a more general point of view. The argument was cut with turning to the constituents of personality. That is, whether a person can remain the same person after receiving memories that normally would not be his or her own, or do memories change them as a whole? That is the main question asked by The Strangers, the endangered alien species of the movie.

The Strangers in the process of tuning the city through their hive mind (connected mind)

The Strangers in the process of tuning the city through their hive mind (connected mind)

They are seeking the answer through memories, as much as it is clear by now, but as Murdoch puts it, in the end, they are searching in the wrong place. Of course, he does not answer what the right place is, only the context might hint at some possible answers. One such possibility is the heart, that is, the emotions. As the woman, who was made to be Murdoch’s wife, Emma (Jennifer Connelly) says at a climectic moment of the story, “you can’t fake anything like that.” In other words, you cannot make someone love someone else; sooner or later the two separated persons will find each other again, no matter that they are from different backgrounds and have even different names at the time. Even if different memories were imprinted in your mind than before, your emotions and affections to others remain the same. At least that is how the movie tries to answer the question at hand.

But it remains unanswered whether you can really fall in love with someone who was made to love you. This is one of the many questions which the audience has to answer. Perhaps they were already meant to be together before they were abducted. A sensitive metaphysical question is being asked at this point about fate and ordainment, which is, again, up to us whether we believe in any of them or not.


However, the movie does not offer such a self-evident answer only with  the explanation that the essence of the human soul is emotion. If that would be the case, then it would not have an ending open to further discussion. Not only do their emotions remain practically the same after a memory imprint, but also their way of life, their habits, their speech etc. For instance, in the very beginning, we meet a hotelkeeper who later reappears as a newspaper vendor. On the one hand, due to the Strangers’ modifications, now he is in a completely different role. On the other hand, he speaks about Dark Cityhis job just like he used to speak about his previous one. Also, we have an investigator, called Bumstead (William Hurt), who seems as if in all his lives he was a lonely person. He had different roles, perhaps, but was always a strict and a somewhat introverted person, who in time starts to realize that something is wrong with the city. He is the one trying to capture Murdoch in the first place and when he does, he is persuaded that something is truly wrong in this place. Even Murdoch himself is unchangeable, even though he seems to be just that person at the beginning. He “tests” himself if he is able to actually kill someone in cold blood or not, after learning that he is charged with several murders – because he was meant to become a serial killer before the imprint failed.

I am aware of the fact that I was not able to properly answer the question. However, as it is a subjective experience, it was not my intention to do so either, as I only meant to hint at some possibilities. If you are interested (in spite of the many spoilers), try watching the movie, preferably the director’s cut and try answering the question(s) yourself. It is a must-watch for every science fiction fan but also for those interested in philosophy and/or psychology. For more interesting and thought-provoking movies, feel free to join us in the movie club next semester!


Sources of Images: fanpop thedorkreport.com YouTube Blogspot


Egbert, Roger. „Dark City Movie Review & Film Summary (1998).” 2005. November 5. RogerEgbert.com. 2016. June 28. <http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-dark-city-2005>.

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