Thursday, November 3, 2022

Level 16 - "A Handmaid's Tale" meet "Repo! The Genetic Opera"


Just because October is over, it doesn't mean that Halloween cannot continue. If you have Prime, there is no harm in watching Level 16, a dystopian thriller about a group of teen girls who are trapped in a mysterious and cruel boarding school that hides a dark secret. I would not call the principle of this movie particularly original - it's really hard to come up with anything truly ground breaking in this genre - but it does a decent job weaving some of the classic dystopian tropes. 

My thoughts:

"Level 16" is what you get when you expect a spin on "A Handmaid's Tale" and end up with "Never Let Me Go" (2010) or "Repo! The Genetic Opera" (2008) instead. The emphasis on "feminine virtue" and subjugation and dehumanization of girls/women leads you to believe that gender politics will be at the core of the movie. Yet the plot goes in a different direction, leaving all those references to "cleanliness" as the proverbial gun that is never fired. Their internal qualities end up irrelevant, because in the end, the only thing that matters is the quality of their skin. Their virtue is literally skin-deep. 

"Level 16" is like a beautiful slice of Swiss cheese in terms of holes. There are so many unanswered questions. Not sure if the writers deliberately wanted to leave a bunch of loose ends for the sake of creative ambivalence or pure negligence. We are not told much about these girls' back stories. How old were they when they ended up at the school? Do they have any memory of their biological families? How did their concepts of friendship and loyalty form? These girls look forward to being adopted, so the idea of a family is part of their value system, yet they are told that the school is their family. 

And of course, no dystopian thriller would be complete without some Slavic henchmen. The cartoonish enforcers speak some broken pseudo-Russian gibberish. Not sure if it's a tribute to some Cold War trope or the location is supposed to have some significance. 

All in all, I feel this plot would have worked better as a mini series that would allow the writers to explore the back stories and the motives of the characters. 

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