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In a futuristic society where corporations have replaced countries, the violent game of Rollerball is used to control the populace by demonstrating the futility of individuality. However, one player, Jonathan E., rises to the top, fights for his personal freedom, and threatens the corporate control. Written by
Jeff Hansen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Some of the other "rollerball cities" mentioned in the movie: Madrid, Manila, Rome, Pittsburgh. See more »
At the beginning of the Madrid game, there is a shot of the crowd just after Jonathan E. takes possession of the ball for the first time; visible in the shot is the scoreboard, reading 1-0 Houston. Neither team has scored as yet. See more »
As remote from the average film-goer's awareness as 2001: A Space Odyssey
In deference to Stanley Kubrick himself and the wondrous achievement that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is, was and forever will be, I do not speak of ROLLERBALL in the same breath. Having said that however, here is a film that although lacking the scope, budget and monumental depth of its compatriot, is a totally brilliant piece of film-making, equally awesome in its implications and social comment.
Norman Jewison created a masterpiece with Rollerball - understated, misunderstood and undervalued both at the time of its release and later. Perhaps ultimately to its its greatest benefit - the release of the plebian 2002 re-make which will stand for all time as the most nauseatingly insulting and tastelessly gratuitous reminder to recall the original with perhaps more relish than might otherwise have been the case.
No purpose in re-hashing the plot - anyone reading this will already know it. Suffice to say, James Caan's Jonathan E stood for that most basic of human principles - the rights of the individual! As John Houseman, the corrupt and ubiquitous head of the all-powerful Corporation that owns and operates ROLLERBALL inc worldwide, tells Jonathan at one point,
"Rollerball was meant to demonstrate the futility of resistence, no man was ever intended to become bigger than the game."
This was a society (set in 2018) with media censorship in place to such a degree a centralised computer stores the worlds' entire literary knowledge (physical books being a thing of the past as in FAHRENHEIT 451 (another futuristic look at social oppression and rumored to be the subject of a remake in 2003 by Mel Gibson). Marvellous interspliced sequence with Sir John Gielgud as keeper of the world's centralised computer to which Jonathan is drawn, seeking answers to questions he was never supposed to ask. You have to really watch and LISTEN to ROLLERBALL to EXTRICATE from it, what the makers are offering you in terms of reflective contemplation. So many saw the film's middle section as "boring!" So is looking at the sky if you have no knowledge of cloud formation, atmospheric beauty or even indeed WHY there IS a sky and what it means in the grand scale of things! Caan's gradual self discovery as to his own identity and purpose is hand-crafted for you during these middle scenes - THIS is what the film is about..not merely the superb action sequences which are so richly photographed and presented in that gladiatorial arena, a colosseum for the new millennium, no more no less!
The highlight of the film, if you are able to see it, is the party for Jonathan E, supposedly to mark his resignation but which in fact might be seen as the Energy Corporation's Last Supper! The scenes of the amphetamine-fed yuppies, destroying the trees with the flame-gun has always made me cry, not because I'm a wimp, a greenie or even an anti lobbyist for hand guns, but because of what those terrible scenes stand for and bring to my own emotional recognition...a directionless society that we are right now so unerringly headed for. Look at the expression on the face of Jonathan's ex-wife as she comes to realise where its all gone wrong - not just for herself but for them all. Now tell me this is boring!!!!
As has been recognised by some fellow critics, the absolute last scenes of the movie are perhaps the greatest. The point being less subtly made as we see Houseman staring through the glass at Jonathan E, the last man standing, his corporate outline encircled by the reflected flames on the track - hello? does anyone understand this?
One of the greats! Watch this film...don't just see it!
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