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Film Review: The Man in the High Castle


The Man in the High Castle is a new series produced by Amazon Studios, based on Philip K. Dicks 1962 novel. This show had been in development for a number of years before Amazon Studios were given the green light to begin filming, and its popularity doesn’t stop there. The pilot received such acclaimed reviews that it was quickly spun into full production for the entire series.

Set in 1962, the same year in which it was penned, we are transported to a dystopian universe where World War II was won by the Axis states. The details can appear rather complex, but to keep it short and sweet; the USA has been split into three sectors; the first comprises the east coast, which is managed by Nazi Germany. In the centre is a neutral zone referred to as the Rocky Mountain States. Finally, the west coast, which is managed by Japan, is referred to as the Pacific States of America.

The protagonist is Juliana Crain, and the story follows her during dramatic life changes under this totalitarian rule. Juliana lives in San Francisco, Pacific States of America, the half occupied by Japan, and appears to be someone who lives by the rules. Though when her sister pops back into town a tornado of trouble arrives, and Juliana gets caught in a world she never realised existed. Her fiancé, Frank Fink, who we quickly learn has hidden Jewish roots, does his best to keep her on the right track. As events unfold both are led down paths that affect their lives more than they possibly could have imagined.

It is a tale of desperation, justice and deceit told in a compelling, heart­felt and adventurous way. The show is a solid and strong adaptation of the book, but has fallen under criticism as a TV series. However, I disagree with these critics as it is part of a new generation of drama series, not necessarily designed to be shown in tiny little segments each week across the space of 3 months on a television. Nor are they specifically designed as a 2 hour long movie. This new generation of series dramas, such as Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and The Man in the High Castle are designed to be binge-­watched or watched in your own time. Naturally the drama is created to titillate your desire to watch the next episode and then the next, but it also gives you the flexibility to be in control.

The set was real, yet untouchable. The designers created a world so familiar to our own, and those that we see in history books or in documentaries or movies, yet added a sense of dream to it. It was, in essence, easy to get sucked into their world, and almost left a desire to live in it, until you realised the truth.

There is a futuristic approach to this in both direction and design, and the cinematography created wondrous landscapes, architecture and scope. The combination of 1950s costume, married into the background of a steamy red bricked San Fran, with the addition of Japanese sliding doors and street food, left you with almost the ability to smell the herbal medicines from the shops.

It could be argued that the series has a slow start, but there is a reason for it; due to its complexity and depth, for any suspension of disbelief to be achieved, a strong understanding of the world and its characters is paramount. In my opinion, I don’t see how anyone could struggle with its pace and content. You can watch the pilot free on Amazon, and the entire series is available on Amazon Prime Video.

                                                               written by Nikica Markot

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