Z.P.G. (Zero Population Growth) (1972)

Article #1303 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-8-2004
Posting Date: 3-7-2005
Directed by Michael Campus
Featuring Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin, Don Gordon

To stem the rise of overpopulation, the government makes a new law forbidding child-bearing. A couple decides to break the law and have a baby.

You want dystopia? You got dystopia! First of all, you have a totalitarian government similar to something you might find in 1984 or FAHRENHEIT 451. They’re so totalitarian that they even booby-trap their libraries (the scene where Oliver Reed is whisked off to an interrogation chamber after watching part of a tape on “premature birth” is one of the most energetic scenes in the slow-moving movie; it’s just a shame that the scene is unintentionally comic). The world is also heavily polluted; unfortunately, the pollution is represented by having all of the outdoors sequence take place in a thick rolling fog that a) obscures the action (this is the foggiest movie since THE SLIME PEOPLE) and b) looks entirely too clean to be pollution. All of the animals are dead, people eat from tubes, etc. etc; the movie is quite relentless with how depressing this world is. Then there’s the central premise, which seems a little extreme; even given the totalitarian government, the decision to ban all child-bearing seems extreme, but then I’m not a politician, so what do I know? The movie is slow moving, arty, and has a musical soundtrack that makes me wish that it had no musical soundtrack. Everyone is also acting in that detached style borrowed from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY; I guess some film-makers thought science fiction was supposed to be like that. However, it’s theme can’t help but have a little power, and there’s a sequence about two-thirds of the way through the movie where the couple with the baby is discovered by another couple, who, instead of turning them in, begin blackmailing them so that they themselves can have time with the baby, and this easily marks the best sequence in the movie, as you can really feel the strong desires of all concerned. The ending is inconclusive and unsatisfying. You have to really like dystopias to like this movie.


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