The world of Mad Max is a disgustingly grotesque and decrepit wasteland. But despite the apparent vicissitudes that a fecund Earth gives rise to, there is something strangely comforting about the desolate world, and amongst the death and despair there is an overwhelming beauty to the wastes. As the belching roar of the mechanical gods echo in the distance and the screams of the broken ring out across the plains, and as I observed humanity tearing itself apart in order to survive, I felt strangely comfortable and disconcertingly at home at the end of the world.
Whether it’s because I was surrounded by familiar accents and right hand drive cars, or because Mad Max’s sweeping vistas and sparse landscapes were strangely familiar, I found myself pulling over to the side of the road and hopping out of the car to take in the sites and sounds of the world. With my trusty petrol-fuelled steed by my side, I would embark on day trips with only the water in my flask for company, roaring through the countryside in pursuit of the perfect sunset as the daylight fell below the wasteland. And as I sat atop a cliff overlooking a toxic stretch of earth while night fell, it made the perfect backdrop for a portrait with the Magnum Opus, exhaust and flames spewing into the carbon soaked atmosphere. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say.
But it was also the people that inhabited the world that turned the beauty of the world into something more. Witnessing humanity’s stubbornness in the face of seemingly inevitable death is testament to its desire to live. Finding worship and salvation in the most unlikely of things, old gods replaced with new ones, gods that are more relevant to the new humanity. Gods of divine making are replaced with those borne by humanity’s past triumphs. The roar of a V8 is the sound of god, and its messenger his driver, a Saint. Belief hadn’t gone away, it just changed shape, to better reflect the new human relationship. In a world where killing was systematic, people uniting around things of their own making and finding common ground in the past achievements of their collective species, well it was inexplicably comforting. So much so that it wasn’t long before I was finding worship in my own mechanical angel. The world was broken, humanity desolated, but in my car I started to see hope.
I saw a lot of contemporary humanity and modern day Earth in the world Max Rockatansky inhabits. The landscape was bruised and broken and its people and their belief systems were forcing them into almost inevitable conflict and bloodshed. But despite this, despite the systematic killing and the almost unassailable end of life on Earth, and despite the agreement of mutual destruction of humanity and its world, there remains an impossible beauty to be witnessed and an unbreakable optimism for the future. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take the total annihilation of the Earth to start to appreciate what we as a species have achieved in manufacture, all the while appreciating the all-encompassing beauty of our world.