After the Dark Review

After the Dark is a philosophy film that causes the viewer to think and challenges presuppositions. The film takes place on the last day of a philosophy class in Jakarta where the instructor, Mr. Zimit, has the class go through a thought experiment one final time.

The thought experiment is essentially a “lifeboat” thought experiment. Nuclear war threatens to destroy all of humanity. A nuclear fallout bunker can hold 10 people for a year saving them from the blasts and fallout. The class has to decide which 10 will be saved based off of their job descriptions and other abilities assigned to them. Most of the students, especially with the encouragement of Mr. Zimit, take a utilitarian approach to the thought experiment. They pick to save the students that seem to have the most utility, or usefulness, to the group and survival of humanity.

The problem that arises when turning a thought experiment into a film is making it entertaining. Thought experiments are not meant to be viewed and be entertained by. They are meant to be interacted with challenging our views. In the process of making this thought experiment entertaining, the film loses sight of the purpose of the experiment: “Who deserves to be saved and why?”. The class is discussing the experiment in the classroom, but the film shows them at different sites for a fallout bunker. Just as any film, they follow along a story as if the experiment is actually taking place. Besides all of this distracting from the point of the experiment, it does keep the viewer’s attention by being enthralling and, as is the point of any film, by being entertaining.

Philosophy challenges people to think, but it also challenges their emotions. In the thought experiment, the 10 essentially are killing off the rest of the class. Those that are not picked begin to feel inferior or worthless because the rest did not view their capabilities as valuable. I have experienced such high emotions in philosophy classes before, but this film takes it to the extremes. It is as if the students and Mr. Zimit forget that none of this is real. They act as if all of it is really happening even the year spent within the bunker and any events that would take place within. Of course, this is all for entertainment sake. Their emotions get the better of them, and they stop thinking logically. This tends to happen to most people, though. In the face of tragedy and fear, people revert to their base feelings. Therefore, in a way, the students acting emotionally is realistic. In fact, this is another goal of a thought experiment: “How would we act in a certain situation?”.

One student says in anger and frustration, “Philosophy is not morality.” Prima facie this may seem to be true, but a subject of philosophy is ethics which tries to decide what is morally right or wrong. Therefore, her statement is false. Our philosophy, or worldview, will determine what we consider to be morally right or wrong.

The class does a total of 3 rounds of the thought experiment. The first time, they are only assigned a job title or quality while they receive an additional quality the second time. Both times they take a usefulness approach in deciding who gets to be saved. The final time, they take a different approach. Utility in Utilitarianism is usually thought of as bringing about the well-being of humanity. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism, defined utility as bringing about the most pleasure. While the well-being of people would definitely fall under this definition of pleasure, one can also pick those that would bring about the most pleasurable experience in the basic sense to live out a nuclear apocalypse. This is what one student does in the final round asking the permission from the class to be the sole chooser. She picks those with qualities like being able to sing or write poems to entertain and distract them from the world being destroyed outside of the bunker. She challenges the preconceived idea of utility and what most people would deem worthy qualities to live on through a nuclear apocalypse.

One student decides to have his own thought experiment during the final class experiment. They were on an island during this one. Therefore, he decided to run away with those left outside of the bunker to find another island outside of the blast zone. All this simply to be able to have sex. One quality that allowed people to be saved was being able to repopulate the earth. His job made him worthy to be saved, but he was sterile. Therefore, he would be left out of the pool of people copulating. He asked in defense of his experiment, “What is the point of living if you can’t have sex?”. He provides an argument that he is too young to actually be sterile. This means that he would probably just be subfertile. The odds of being able to produce a pregnancy increase the more times one participates in intercourse. With 6 ladies and one male continually copulating, they are bound to eventually produce a healthy pregnancy. His thought experiment greatly lightens the mood by providing comedic relief after over an hour of serious thinking and emotional drama.

In conclusion, After the Dark is the best of both worlds of philosophy and film. Some philosophy films are too obscure for the common audience to catch or are not entertaining enough to draw in a large audience. This film is entertaining enough to attract audience members that may not normally interact with philosophy. The philosophy and purpose is obvious with the setting taking place in a philosophy class and the class reviewing philosophical theories and thought experiments. This film is recommended for anyone that enjoys apocalyptic movies or philosophy.

After the Dark. Directed by John Huddles. By John Huddles. Performed by James D’Arcy, Sophie Lowe, Daryl Sabara. USA: An Olive Branch Productions, 2013. DVD.


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