Friday, August 15, 2014
"The Giver": a post-apocalyptic, restricted black-and-white "intentional community" nurtures a Christ-like young man who can save it
“The Giver”, a South African film directed by Phillip Noyce (based on the novel by Lois Lowry), is yet another Dystopian struggle, with people’s lives greatly reduced in scale after some kind of purification. In this film, “The Ruin” has been followed by the establishment of a ring of planned communities on tops of plateaus, surrounded by clouds (rather life the “heaven” scenario if “Astral City”). The greatest Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) usually appears at will as a hologram.
The sociology and politics of the communities takes on inequality head on. No one is allowed personal freedom; everyone is raised in an “assigned family” after being born by an “assigned mother”. The people, to borrow a colloquial term from my own psychiatric period at NIH in 1962, have been “dulled”. They see only black and white, and take mandatory drugs to hinder normal emotions. The politics is a mixture of extreme communism and fascism (because children who don’t develop well enough are sent to “The Elsewhere”) – although, unlike the case with North Korea, the people live pretty well materially. The commune looks rather modern, if sterile, and is climate controlled.
At “high school graduation” Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, who has his own “sea legs” back after acting in “The Signal”) waits anxiously for an assignment. It turns out he is honored to become the Receiver of Memories, and warned that, unlike everyone else, he will have to bear great pain without flinching, rather like boys in ancient Sparta. (He was depicted as younger in the book than in the movie.) Every day, he bikes to the edge of the plateau to a hut (called “The Annex”, with a full library inside) where he takes lessons from an old sage, “The Giver” (Jeff Bridges). The lessons consist of the Giver’s holding his wrists (or body), and letting Jonas “remote view” world history. Perhaps there is a little bit of homoeroticism here; Jonas will develop emotion and the ability to really love anyone appropriately. This is not easy, as he has to deal with bad stuff (He remote-views a scene from the Vietnam War and learns what conflict is.) When he returns to the commune, he develops some feelings or normal post-teen heterosexual romance for Fiona (Odeya Rush). When he learns that the weakest babies are eliminated, he wants to save one of them and raise it. By now, he has learned that if he can slide to the plain below, and run or bike far enough, he will reach an “edge of memories” which turns out to ne a device we’ve seen in films like “The Corridor”, “The Wall”, and Stephen King’s CBS series “Under the Dome”. A snowsled (“Rosebud” from “Citizen Kane”) appears at critical points in the story as a metaphor. In the end, Jonas, practically a Christlike figure, almost a Clark Kent, is prepared to be a very attentive single father, dedicated to a baby who is not his. The conclusion also reminds one of how “Sound of Music” ends, but this time the music comes from One Republic. In the middle of the film, there is actually a piano lesson in the basement of the library, with a hologram of a teen girl who had tried to act as Receiver and “failed”. Taylor Swift plays the part of the "failed" Rosemary.
The film (in 2.35:1) looks great, and uses various hues and color saturation and plans to show the gradual development of color vision, and even show what some kinds of color blindness would be like.
The community seems to have been set up in South Africa, but other portions of the film were shot in the South African bush, Utah (the Great Salt Lake and Wasatch Mountains) and New York.
The official site is here. This is one of The Weinstein Company’s largest films (first pairing with Walden Media).
I saw this film Friday afternoon before a small audience at the Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax VA.
Picture: My own dystopian community, for my own screenplay, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted”. More details to come.