Monday, September 15, 2014

The Giver

Imagine for a moment living in a world with no war, no anger, no judgment, no fighting. The words of John Lennon’s song come to mind….

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

It’s certainly a nice sentiment, but the movie The Giver , based on the 1993 novel by Lois Lowry, shows us what such a world might look like: a world of ‘sameness.’  Director Phillip Noyce does a great job of using black and white to paint a picture of a peaceful and complacent world. We’ve seen it before when director Gary Ross used it in Pleasantville, and it certainly served this movie as well.

This post-apocalyptic ‘utopian’ world came about after something referred to as ‘The Ruin’. Everything that could possibly cause upset has been removed, including the ability to see color and feel emotions. Even weather is controlled…no snow or storms allowed. There are no automobiles so no worry of road rage or accidents. Each person receives a daily dose of medication that depresses all of their feelings, even those of love, longing and joy. ‘Precision of Language’ is a commonly used phrase to make sure communication stays clear. I have to say that could come in handy in relationships sometimes. If someone says they are angry…what is the precision of that word….anxious, nervous, insecure? However, ‘warm and nice’ just don’t say enough when it comes to love, but the people in this world wouldn’t know, they don’t feel those emotions.

Also missing are memories. All of the community’s memories of life before this contrived community are stored with one person called The Giver (Jeff Bridges) who gives the elders guidance based on the decisions of the past. Every 10 years a new Receiver is chosen to receive all of the memories. Young Jonas (Brenton Thwaite) is chosen to be this Receiver….and soon thereafter sameness is in jeopardy. Jonas stops taking the daily medication, and begins to see colors and feel emotions and soon realizes what he and the others in his world have been denied.

Meryl Streep does a formidable job of playing the Chief Elder and pops up in holographic form to keep the community in line. Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard play the Family Unit ‘parents’ assigned to Jonas and are successful in keeping an emotionless presence throughout the film.

I enjoyed the film, although not as much as similar films on this subject: Divergent and Hunger Game. My main issue with this film is that they could have made it a little longer and done a little more with the memories being ‘given’ to Jonas. They seem too brief and choppy, and certainly don’t serve to elicit any emotion from the audience.

This movie just served to confirm my belief that ALL of life has value. Yes, war, illness, and pain, while not fun, have their purpose. When I left the movie I turned to my husband and said, ‘Honey, I wouldn’t give up feeling pain or conflict if it meant I also had to give up feeling the love in my heart for you.’

While I love the sentiment of John Lennon’s song, and it’s certainly something to strive towards…The Giver reminds us that a utopian world with only harmony comes at too great a cost.