The Granite Tower
ARTS & CULTUREFILM REVIEW
Having Faith In A Utopian World
Kim Yeojeong  |  letrajet18@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2019.05.12  01:15:11
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

 In a dystopian future, the world will be divided into the haves and the have-nots. With such a simple but uncommon setting, Netflix’s new TV series 3% (2016) reflects the extreme inequality within society. In the world of 3%, the majority of the population is locked in the Inland while very few live in a virtual paradise called the Offshore. The once in a lifetime opportunity comes when one turns 20 years old. The youths are driven out to a ruthless competition where only three percent are chosen to move into the Offshore. While the story is set in the near future, 3% shadows the reality of today, illustrating the egoistic nature of mankind.

 
   
▲ The test takers are going through the process. Provided by Netflix
 
 
3%, the very first Portuguese Netflix original series, went viral online even before it was released. The trailer introduced the plot where people crave to join a neighboring society of privilege. While the enthralling dystopian setting has been popular worldwide in the recent years following the success of The Hunger Games (2015) and The Maze runner (2014), 3% captured the eyes of the audience with its mysterious characters and suspenseful plot. Topping the rankings in eight countries, including Brazil, where the show was both set and made, the series is looking forward to releasing its third season in 2019.
 
Building a Dystopian Setting
 
The story beings with a scene in which a group of people of the same age gathers in a building. Then Ezequiel, the head of the selection process, appears and it is here where the audience gets the first comprehensive view over the series. The selection process is composed of extreme situations of stress and fear which cause moral dilemmas. If they fail, they must stay in the Inland for the rest of their lives and are forced to live in abject poverty. Such a cruel system aroused a rebel group called the Cause. The storyline of 3% unravels as the officials of the Offshore notice that there is an infiltrated mole from the Cause among the test takers.
 
 
   
▲ The test takers are going through the process. Provided by Netflix
 
Dystopian literature has been a good source of content for films and novels, including 3%. By the end of a realistic depiction of disparity in wealth, it often leaves the audience to wonder what it would be like to live in a dystopian world. Across eight episodes, 3% tells the story of a dystopian future and a utopia made by the mysterious Founding Couple. Throughout the story, the show criticizes the competitive society by showing a societal system maintained by the powers of the Offshore. The system creates brutal competition which eventually brutalizes and dehumanizes human beings.
 
3% reveals the mole on its first episode, unlike most other films or series. Michele, the infiltrated mole, is the member of the Cause who lost her brother in the selection process. Except for Michele, however, the test takers show an act of desperation instead of a sense of duty to subvert the societal norm. They betray others or even commit suicide during the test. By showing the characters’ desperate states, 3% also acknowledges the need for a system which can efficiently control people’s insatiable greed. Not focusing only on the underground force who want the whole system to collapse, the show finds a necessity for the control of the superior authority through its dystopian setting.
 
Being Human
 
After introducing the setting, 3% centers on the story of the test takers and illustrates a diverse range of feelings. It emphasizes the emotion of selfishness, in that egoism is what has made the maintenance of the Offshore possible. Every test taker has a reason for their participation. Even Fernando, another main character who has an altruistic attitude, needs to get to the Offshore to receive a cure for his wounded legs. As the test proceeds, the feeling of self-interest maximizes since only three percent make it through the process every year and the competition is fierce. Through a somewhat cruel setting, 3% realistically portrays egoism within humanity.
 
3% was filmed in third-person omniscient point of view, focusing on the main characters, especially Michele. Michele has a sense of duty to pass the test for her brother and for the Cause. Therefore, she inevitably conducts immoral behaviors for her goal and suffers from a guilty conscience. For example, Michele breaks down in tears after causing her friend’s death in order to clear herself of the charge that she is the mole. With 3% closely portraying the inner side of Michele, the audience can feel more involved in the series and identify with the character.
 
Another noticeable characteristic of the series lies in its cinematography which often uses a close-up effect. The audience is able to empathize with the characters as a closeup on the face effectively amplifies the agony and fear of the characters. The camera work also helps the audience predict the plot. For instance, Ezequiel’s face plays an important role by providing crucial clues. The scene where the camera magnifies into his face often appears, and the audience automatically feels that he is about to bring a great twist to the plot. The emphasis on his nervous and anxious facial expressions allow the audience to think that he is hiding something yet to unfold.
 
Netflix’s first Brazilian-shot series shows a dystopian world where only a small minority can live an affluent life. With people striving to reach the Offshore, 3% illustrates people’s noble ambitions to live a comfortable life. It contains intriguing themes, rich characterization, and plenty of twists within the eight episodes. Even though the story is set up in the near future, 3% reflects the increasingly competitive world of today. Despite the show’s fictional elements, the audience will eventually come to realize that they are already a part of the process—a perpetual rat race.
 
 
TV Series Information
Released Date | November 25, 2016 (Season 1)
Country of Origin | Brazil
Creator | Pedro Aguilera
Number of Episodes | 8
Running Time | 45 minutes per episode
Genre | Drama, Thriller, Science fiction
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