• The hit French show is set in the near future when a giant corporation wants to replace the police with its private militia. (SBS)
France’s latest sci-fi hit series owes a debt to the horrific futurescapes that came before it.
By
Shane Cubis

12 Aug 2016 - 12:07 PM  UPDATED 12 Aug 2016 - 12:07 PM

Dark. Edgy. Violent. Political. Sci-fi. All terms that have been used to describe the new series by French writer/director Olivier Marchal, Section Zero, now available on SBS On Demand. Set in the near future, when governments have abdicated power to mega-corporations, it follows cynical cop Sirius Becker (Ola Rapace) as he navigates this gritty world. And if you watch closely, you may see some of the much-loved movies and shows that inspired Marchal’s dystopian opus.

 

The slick neon-invaded darkness of Blade Runner

The near-future setting, the grizzled lawman, the neon lighting breaking through darkness. All these elements come from Ridley Scott’s much-edited masterpiece to reside in Section Zero.

It’s a dirty, lived-in world where cultures have collided messily, just like real life, to co-exist in the spaces left to them after societal upheaval. And corporations like Tyrell have set themselves up as veritable gods. (You don’t think naming the big bad company in Section Zero “Prometheus” is coincidental, do you?)

 

The post-apocalyptic savagery of Mad Max

Section Zero’s setting owes a lot to this Aussie classic. “An ultra-anxiety movie and, at the same time, so visionary,” says Marchal. “It was a first for showing the mortality in its characters – the feeling of total despair, fear for the end of the world, and savagery, which bears a lot of resonance with how people felt following the catastrophic events of 2015.

"Without comparing Section Zero to this masterpiece, the series does also embody all of this, as it was drafted well before the Charlie Hedbo and Bataclan attacks...”

 

The gritty light and blueness of Children of Men

Marchal claims he used this 2006 film “for its light”, and you can see this in the way Section Zero absorbs the almost-metallic blues and dull skies of the dystopian London setting of Children of Men.

The premise, in which humans face extinction because no new babies are being born, certainly lends itself to a similar mood as they struggle to maintain personal autonomy in the face of overpowering corporatism.

 

The creepy, lurking menace of The Returned

We’re talking about the French original here, Les Revenants, rather than the US remake. People long dead attempt to return to their lives, unaware that they passed away four, 10 or 30 years ago. Before long, water levels are dropping in the local dam, and society is crumbling as “the Returned” begin to interfere with the way things are.

The creepy atmosphere and military involvement of the second season have certainly threaded their DNA through Section Zero, which is unsurprising since they were both spawned from French powerhouse Canal+.

 

The robotic cop in RoboCop

OK, so Marchal hasn’t officially stated that he took inspiration from Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic, but any series that has a mega-corporation attempting to replace human police with a robotic army of law enforcers has got to owe some debt to the not-too-distant-future city of Detroit. We’d buy that for a dollar!

 

Season 1 of Section Zero is available on SBS On Demand. Watch the first episode right here:

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