Nazim Tulyakhodzhayev, “There Will Come Soft Rains” (1984)
This beautifully melancholy 1984 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” was created by Soviet animation studio Uzbekfilm. Though the parents and children of the house are now dust, their affectionate robotic appliances live on, carrying out their duties unabated.
The family in Haneke’s “The Seventh Continent” also robotically performs domestic chores. However, theirs are not duties of household maintenance, but of self-annihilation. Only the destruction of an exotic fish tank interrupts their cool, measured destruction.
Apparently test audiences were most deeply appalled at the sight of fistfuls of cash being flushed down the toilet. Spoiler alert: Things don’t end well.
It always seemed to me the underlying tension of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” was not in the Griswolds’ MacGuffin-esque desire to reach Walley World, or even in the fraying of Clark Griswold’s sanity through such a quest. The Griswolds indicate the fracturing of an ideal, a familial grotesquerie filtered through the shittiness of commodified, highwayed America (it is not insignificant that Clark brings home the bacon as a “food additives researcher”).
Lesser sequels undermine this gut-wrenching, though hilarious, depiction of domestic decay, a family as a dispersing cosmos. The Griswolds are doomed.
– Rob Benvie