Costume, Actor, Future

From their very origin – starting with George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon – filmmakers were engaging with irrational worlds and imaginative futures. the costume became an agent of their mission to illustrate possible prospects in detail and delivers another avenue of exploration for the quest of Peut-Porter. A collection of statements from characters wearing trench coats are listed beneath:

Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll whisper “no.”

Watchmen, dir: Zack Snyder, 2009. Character: Rohrschach

Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

Matrix, dir: the Wachowski Brothers, 1999. Character: Morpheus

If we all reacted the same way,we’d be predictable, and there’s always more than one way to view a situation. What’s true for the group is also true for the individual.

Ghost in the Shell, dir: Mamoru Oshii, 1995. Character: Major Motoko Kusanagi

Though I cannot predict the future, the consequences of this night will reverberate through the halls of both great covens for many years to come.

 Underworld, dir: Len Wiseman, 2003. Character: Selene

It is every man’s quest to find out who he truly is, but the answer to that lies in the present, not in the past. As it is for all of us.

 Total Recall, dir: Len Wiseman, 2012. Character: Matthias Lair

You don’t exist anymore. I’ve killed you.

Brazil, dir: Terry Gilliam, 1985. Character: Sam Lowry

I want more life, fucker.

Blade Runner, dir: Ridley Scott, 1982. Character: Roy Batty

I don’t know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life – anybody’s life; my life. All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.

Blade Runner, dir: Ridley Scott, 1982. Character: Rick Deckard

Pain can be controlled – you just disconnect it.

Terminator, dir: James Cameron, 1984. Character: Kyle Reese

God‘s a kid with an ant farm, lady. He‘s not planning anything.

Constantine, dir: Francis Lawrence, 1984. Character: Constantine

Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice-skate uphill.

 Blade, dir: Stephen Norrington, 1998. Character: Blade

throughout filmhistory, different features were used to place us in a futuristic plot. It would be deceptive to assign the subject only to the genre of science fiction. Alternative realities and irra- tional hopes or future-related notions and fears are incorporated in a rather wide spectrum of films – spanning from sci-fi and fantasy to techno noir. they even cross with the genres of horror and thriller. In any case the costumes perform as an intuitive way to lead us into the particular notion of the proposed reality. Costume, Actor, Future is a sequence of quotations taken from actors in different films which are future-related or feature alternative reali- ties. Strikingly, they all wear a trench coat. Although this coat could be understood to be time-honoured, the characters wearing the trench in film include antiheroes and revolutionaries, as well as conservatives or criminals. In Blade runner the trench even stylises two opponing roles: the main character Deckard as well as the antihero roy Batty wear a trench. Film highlights the storytelling ability of garments and whereas the usual role of a costume is to support actors, the same garment can sometimes thrive to become an actor itself which is what the the trench apperently has suceeded in doing. The liaison of trenchcoat and film has had a distincitve peak within film noir and its use might well link back to its own history: at first designed and used as a military outfit during WW I, it was worn only by officers. Ever since then it has sported epaulettes, a D-ring and the storm flap. This military past turns it into an explicit masculine piece of clothing and states its blatant authority. As science fiction was to some extend a reaction of the film industry to new technologies developed for war and spacetravel after WW II, the preference for military garments is obvious. Moreover, the trenchcoat is not just a random fashion item, but has overcome this status and has turned into an ‘archetype’ predestinated to be used in film. 

The somewhat suspicious and concealing look of a trench as well as the stretching of the silhouette into an iconic and strong, if not even solid appearance, provides the characters and stories with the mysticism needed for an imaginative scenario. The strongest quality of this famous coat however is in my belief that it provides the spectators with a familiar look: ‘interestingly, the word custom is related to costume.’¹ – the culturally loaded trench coat vests any fiction with a certain familiar element² that suggests a proximity to the spectator and subsequently renders the story in a plausible light. Having said that, some garments in future films do share a rather opposing stylistic property. Costumes which remind us of greek sophisticated wear and apparel which resembles armatures of gladiators as they feature wide shoulders or long capes seem to underline a tale char- acter, taking the viewer to a rather abstract and far distant time and setting. In contrast to the approaches of Total Recall or Blade Runner, H.G. Wells’ Things To Come, the Star Wars Episodes, Barbarella or Tron seem to have a prospective concept about the future of fashion itself. Similar to those silhouettes is the fashion shown in ray Kawakubo’s 1981 Hiroshima-chic which first caused an outcry within europe and could well be understood as japanese fashion-fiction. But why do unprocessed, layered and oversized clothes picture our future in such a successful way?

¹ Susan B. Kaiser, Fashion and Cultural Studies (London: Berg, 2012) p 44

² Michael Marano “total recall’s secrets to building a future that’ll always look like one”, blastr (2012), http://www.blastr.com/2012/07/total_recall_set_visit_fu.php (accessed 20 August 2013)