“Smog covers the Earth. The oxygen is depleted. Love is encouraged but the penalty for birth is death.”
World Governments have placed a 30-year ban on conception in an effort to achieve Zero Population Growth (ZPG) and save what’s left of life on earth.
Instead of real babies, everybody is entitled to visit the baby shop and get themselves their very own animatronic child. Citizens concealing illegal children are caught and executed – the babies too – and informers are rewarded with food chits.
When a baby is discovered in this future society, the authorities swoop and the offending parents and baby are placed inside a big dome. They are forced to stay under the dome for 12 hours to contemplate their transgressions, and then they’re executed in the dome.
It’s a world of plastic food and simulated merriment – and a museum to contain the last living remnants of Earth’s natural flora and fauna.
The caretakers of that museum, Russ (Oliver Reed) and Carol McNeil (Geraldine Chaplin) are a young couple who represent the last living link with today’s humanity. The last holdouts for individuality in a sterile, bland future.
Carol contrives to defy the anti-conception edict and illegally conceive, and Russ decides to back his wife on this suicidal plan.
He is almost caught at a computerised library trying to look up childbirth procedures, but the couple takes a child doll as camouflage and prepares a secret room in their fallout shelter to house their baby. Russ hides Carol down in the shelter for five months and tells anyone who asks that his wife left him.
Once the child is born, Carol and Russ’s neighbours Edna (Diane Cilento) and George (Don Gordon) discover their secret and reveal their psychotic side, demanding firstly to hold the baby, then to share it, and ultimately to take it away for their own.
Realising it is just a matter of time before they are discovered, Russ and Carol have been secretly getting their escape ready.
They have figured out where they would be executed and get their gear together underground, below the execution spot.
When the inevitable happens and the dome descends, Russ has a digging tool strapped to his ankle and burrows down to the sewer tunnels where their raft awaits for them to paddle off into the sunset.
They alight without provisions or shelter on a possibly radioactive island, where a placard announces that Polaris missiles were junked in a 1978 peace accord.
The film, made in Copenhagen with an English-speaking cast, has a dreamlike quality that is enhanced by the slowly drifting pollution clouds and its silent, grim-faced crowds. Everywhere the air is thick with honey-throated voices soothing endless lines of people through shopping malls, museum galleries and smog-choked streets.