The Glass Fortress

The Glass Fortress is a French short science fiction film based on the 1921 novel We by the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin. This low budget experimental film makes use of a technique known as freeze frame – when a single frames of the film show gradually on the screen – thus ‘freezing’ the action. The film is also shot in black-and-white, further underlining the bleak atmosphere of its story set in the retro-futuristic totalitarian society.

The narrative is set some one thousand years after the founding of the 'One State' – a dystopian, autocratic regime run by its despotic ruler, Welldoer. In One State, one's name, or rather 'number', is composed of a single letter (determined by gender: consonants for males, vowels for females) and hour of birth. Thus, the main protagonist, born at 5:03, becomes known as D-503.

D-503, as many of his peers, lives in the City of Glass – the capital of One State, and follows his daily programme, which is pre-planned by the Welldoer’s henchmen to the last minute and activity, including leisure time. In order to extend the scope of his influence, the Welldoer initiates the Project 'Integral' – building of the spaceship, which when finished, is meant to broadcast his message throughout the Universe, far beyond the Solar System’s frontiers. As he excels in the required skills, such as arithmetic, D-503 is selected to partake in this ambitious undertaking.

Initially content with his designation, D-503, or Daniel as he wants to be henceforth called, starts to question the basic beliefs of his life, after being introduced to I-330, a.k.a. Iris, who shows Daniel that this world of seeming harmony and conformity is only a calculated deception designed to suppress all personal liberties and political freedoms.

Perfect geometry and sterile order within the City of Glass is protected from the purported organic chaos and decay that surrounds it by the Green Wall – the impenetrable barrier nobody has ever ventured over since the Two Hundred Years’ War. Iris takes Daniel to an abandoned house and leads him through a ‘rabbit hole’ in a back of a wardrobe, via a secret corridor, to an astounding world behind the wall. Having discovered that he had been lied to his entire life, Daniel decides to escape the oppression of the One State in the spaceship Integral and take Iris with him. But is their resolve strong enough to help them free themselves from the clutches of all-controlling, all-seeing Welldoer?

You can watch The Glass Fortress, directed by Alain Bourret and starring Pierre-Antoine Piter and Amélie DeSwarte in the main roles of D-503/Daniel and I-330/Iris, free on YouTube by following the above link.