Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Film review: The Giver

Posted on September 22, 2014 in Arts & Culture, Movie Reviews
By USM Free Press

Krysteana Scribner | The Free Press

By Sergey Miller

If you had to choose, what would you like most, to be happy or to have free will? This is the central question asked in the recent movie The Giver. In just 130 minutes, questions of euthanasia, science, technology, pain, and the meaning of human nature are questioned and critiqued. Though the movie makes many ideological claims concerning human nature, it is not without some relevant criticisms of the modern age and technology. I encourage all to see this movie for its argument against purely rationalized knowledge and its dystopian  replacement with human compassion and courage. The moral of this story is that living in an unpredictable and wild world that is ‘dangerous’ is far better than a controlled one.

This is admittedly a lot to handle and most of the movie takes a less serious philosophical display of Lois Lowry’s 1993 best seller that goes by the same name, but  serves up much more of an interesting critique then the movie allows. This may be because of the political correctness and kid-oriented moral of the story. Without detracting from some very emotionally powerful scenes in the movie, some other scenes in the movie focus on too much action and romance build-up that is all but absent in the original book.

The Giver tells the story of Jonas, an 18 year old boy has been chosen to become the community’s next receiver.  While his friends Fiona and Asher obtain a rather conventional position in the community, Jonas is to become the next receiver in the community. Although he is told that he has been chosen for his overall outstanding ethical life, he has actually been engineered to become the receiver since his birth. The position of the receiver is to become the vessel that contains history, memory, the written word, emotional ambiguity, lessons in philosophy, lessons in the complexity of arts, music, love, joy and pain. All of these qualities that the receiver gains is wholly absent from the rest of the community. The Giver has all the memories of a past society; a society that is long lost in relation to the contemporary world of 2048 in which this movie is set.

The antagonist of this film is the head of the society, played by the brilliant Meryl Streep who sees emotions as more dangerous and subversive to human happiness. The choice, according to her character, is between happiness or free will. One can give up their happiness for free will or free will for happiness, but they do not mix. Those who do not belong- go to “elsewhere”. Elsewhere is seen as an idyllic place where retired elders and unchosen young go to live the rest of their lives, however, this is just plainly untrue. ‘Elsewhere’ is nowhere in the sense that it means you die symbolically and physically. Jonas discover that free will or the belief of free will is much better than a world without it.

To live in a world where certainty was unknown makes for a more vibrant and wild world. The ending of the book centers around the question if Jonas will be able to survive in the world on his own. Like a domesticated animal re-entering the wild, things can be a little dangerous. This leads to the reader feeling quite uncertain whether free will does outweigh the promise of happiness which control brings. The movie parallels the book in this respect.

In all, I suggest watching this movies adaptation of the book and seeing the world as one philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz has stated “We live in the best of all possible worlds”. This movie is  good for a rainy afternoon and to just watch Jeff Bridges’ excellent acting. I would suggest watching this movie alone, if watching movies alone make one think deeper. It’s not particularly a “date” movie, but it is good to raise some philosophical questions in one’s spare time.

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