“Utopia” as Art

Utopia is a British conspiracy thriller that originally aired on Channel 4 in the UK.


The series is about a small group of fans of a graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments, which some believe predicted many of the worst disasters of the 20th century, especially epidemics. While chatting on a fansite one day, someone logs in the chatroom claiming to have a copy of the mysterious, much discussed but never seen sequel. The group, who only knew each other in cyberspace, agrees to meet the man in meatspace. This piques the interest of a mysterious cabal known as “The Network”. Will the group be able to figure out the hidden meaning of the sequel before The Network can hunt them down? And why is The Network so interested in a graphic novel anyway?

So far, it sounds like an interesting, if conventional, premise for a TV series. But Utopia is different. For one thing, the writing is good and the acting is solid. So that’s nice. But with Utopia, it’s all about sight and sound. Chilean-born composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer provided the show’s quirky, at times almost atonal, soundtrack:

But really, with this show, it’s all about the camera. It’s shot in a 21:9 aspect ratio, making it feel like a film. The show is chock-full of lovely long shots:

The series is a full-blown riot of hypersaturated color. I hate to sound like a film student, but it’s true: the depth of field and mise en scène is just… breathtaking:

For the record, these are just crappy screen caps from a YouTube promo. The actual show is just beautiful, much more like an artistic thriller than a mere TV show. A bit of warning, though: it’s very dark and very violent.

If you haven’t seen the show yet, you really owe it to yourself to track it down via onDemand or Blu-Ray or whatever. It’s really, really well done, and – as I’ve mentioned a hundred times already – it’s just… amazing to look at.


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