Dystopia and romance. The Divergent movies are a trilogy directed by Neil Burger and based on the novels written by Veronica Roth. Divergent is on the list as one of the few movies that has satisfied book readers by sticking to the original plot. Set in post-apocalyptic Chicago, the movie revolves around a group of teenagers who have to overcome multiple obstacles when they realise that they do not fit into the standards set by their society. On their journey, they uncover many secrets that might change the world as they know it. 

The City

Divergent starts with a zoom-in shot of the skyline that the main characters call home. This is Chicago. Or rather, a post-apocalyptic Chicago. According to the lore given in the movie, a war changed humanity leading the population remaining to form a walled city. The residents of Chicago believe that Chicago is the only safe place and outside the walled city lies a wasteland with unknown dangers. The Navy Pier Ferris wheel is placed in the skyline as a landmark of Chicago to resonate familiarity within viewers. Although the skyline is not an exact replica of the original skyline situated in current-day Chicago, the architecture of all the buildings follows the general style of Chicago school with classic columns and cornices. Parts of the skyscrapers are shown as having been exploded showing signs that there was war. 

In Divergent, the city plan revolves around factions and the central official office. The only public mode of transportation that is shown in the movies is a train that runs through the city from one end to the other. It seems that there is only one track on this train. It runs above rooftops and on ground level. Another mode that is unconventional and was shown to be used only by the dauntless as a ritual for initiates is a zipline across the city. The zipline even goes through multiple buildings. 

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Chicago’s skyline_©Jio Cinema


Each sci-fi has a different perspective and in the world of Divergent, we have factions. Factions are groups that were made in belief to run society easily. Once children reach the required age, they undergo a test that tells them which faction they are best suited and they choose accordingly. There are a total of five factions each representing a different belief that is necessary to run society. They are – abnegation, candour, dauntless, amity and erudite. Abnegation is the faction of selflessness. It is their duty to help others and not be too vain. They help the factionless and run the government. Dauntless is the faction that is brave and provides soldiers for border protection. Amity is a peace-loving faction and their jobs are farming. They are the happy ones. Candour stands for honesty and truth. They look after the law. Finally, we have erudite who are the smart ones and look after intel. 

In the movie, we can see that an attempt has been made to represent each faction and its values through the clothing style of the faction members as well as in the building style of the factions. For example, as previously mentioned, abnegation is a faction of modesty and selflessness. The filmmakers of Divergent have represented this with row houses that are mere concrete blocks. The houses are entirely functional with no ornamentation on the facades of the interiors. Each house is an exact replica of the other. 

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Abnegation row houses_©Jio Cinema

On the other hand, we have dauntless – the faction of bravery. They are a fortress that is located underground. The residents of dauntless have to jump from a train onto the rooftop of a building and plunge several metres through the floors of the skyscraper and under the road to reach their faction. The filmmakers of the divergent movie made use of grey stone, probably, to show the ruthlessness of a faction such as dauntless. The dauntless all wear black clothes that are fit for exercise and easy movement. Similarly, we see that erudite is a faction of the smart people or rather the dystopian version of modern-day workers. The faction is also designed like modern-day offices with steel and glass along with the use of whites. They have a glass dome and a glass skyscraper surrounded by a huge green lawn on which people have strolls. Their costumes are all navy blue and resemble formal office wear such as pencil skirts and blazers. 

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Dauntless_©Jio Cinema
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Erudite_©Jio Cinema

The next faction that we see in the movies is amity. Amity means friendship or peaceful harmony and true to its name, that is what the faction represents. Amity is a neutral faction that is isolated towards the periphery of the city. They are farmers by profession. In the buildings for amity, we see that unlike all the factions that are located in the city and made out of concrete and steel, there is use of wood. In real life, we know that wood is one of the best materials for human health restoration, perhaps that is the reason why the buildings at amity are made of wood and glass. The glass and wooden dome along with the gabled roof building are out of place when compared to the architecture of all other factions. Then we have candour which values honesty and truthfulness. We see that they are the centre of the city. The architecture loosely represents court buildings of the United states. 

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Amity_©Jio Cinema
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Candor_©Jio Cinema

Last but not least, we have the factionless. The factionless are the people that did not fit into anyone of the factions and are treated as worthless. While there is no official area designated for the factionless, they are shown in multiple parts of the movies. They have created their own area at the fringe where the skyscrapers of Chicago end to blend with the greenscape. They have an entire under-the-radar settlement maintained by them. This part of the divergent trilogy is also a great example of real-life city planning where undefined areas can be occupied by settlements and become the underbelly. 

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Fringe at which factionless live_©Jio Cinema

References List:

  1. Dystopia definition & meaning (no date) Merriam-Webster. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dystopia (Accessed: 06 June 2024).
  2. Wiki, C. to D. (no date) Candor, Divergent Wiki. Available at: https://divergent.fandom.com/wiki/Candor (Accessed: 06 June 2024). 
  3. Wiki, C. to D.F. (no date) Candor, Divergent Fanon Wiki. Available at: https://divergent-fanon.fandom.com/wiki/Candor#:~:text=Candor%20was%20a%20faction%20formed,more%20peaceful%20and%20perfect%20society. (Accessed: 07 June 2024). 
  4. Candor (2013) Divergent Faction. Available at: https://divergentfaction.wordpress.com/factions/candor/ (Accessed: 06 June 2024). 
  5. Chicago (no date) A View On Cities. Available at: https://aviewoncities.com/chicago (Accessed: 07 June 2024). 

A final-year architecture student, Harshita is a dreamer at heart. A travel aficionado and lover of stories, she believes that architecture is a tale that lies bare and unknowing to the world, waiting for its story to be told.