Monday, 8 September 2014

Movie Review: The Giver

Previous Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey
Next Review: The Gathering

Have you ever dreamed of a perfect world, where there's no racial, ethnic, religious, political conflicts, no violence, no war, no hunger, no pain, no suffering, no tragedy? A world where everything that is needed are all provided for you and no one wants more for anything? I believe that this is the world we all yearn for. Now what if we could achieve this just by forsaking our feelings, our emotions, our free will and individuality? Is it truly worth it to deny the extraordinary diversity and wonders of human experience, for the sake of peace? This is the premise of The Giver, which is rather interesting, intelligent, intriguing and thought-provoking at the same time.

Based on the 1993 novel of same name written by Lois Lowry (keep in mind that The Hunger Games is written in 2008 and Divergent is written in 2011, so it is suffice to say that these books are inspired by this particular novel), it's a story about a boy named Jonas who lives in a seemingly 'perfect' world after the collapse of mankind, where everyone is the same and they all strictly adhere to a set of societal rules established by the elders: since birth, everyone is assigned to a more compatible family unit to prevent unnecessary conflicts; teenagers who graduated from school are assigned suitable jobs according to their personality traits; (feels familiar?) language needs to be spoken 'precisely' and any words that indicate negativity needs to be questioned and addressed; you must apologise for any mistakes you've made and your apology must be accepted as well; lying is not permitted; emotions are heavily suppressed by taking daily injection of drugs and memories of the past are taken away to prevent history from repeating itself.

There's only one person in the community, the Giver of memories, who holds all the memories of the past, to provide the wisdom he needs to advise the elders when the time comes. Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of memories. As Jonas begins his 'training' with the Giver, he slowly learns about pain, sadness, anger, fear, loneliness, violence, war, death...but also compassion, mercy, benevolence, warmth, happiness, love, family, life...Through these 'trainings', he discovers the importance of choice, the wonders of experience, the joy of life and finally understands what it means to live.

The film made its point rather clear in the beginning, by portraying the world in black and white as the community do not perceive colour at all. Most of the audience might find the first half of the film to be boring and dull, but this is exactly how it should feel like. The absence of colour shows the absence of diversity, emotions, knowledge. Without them, we're nothing but an empty shell. As Jonas starts to feel more emotions, we slowly get to see the colours...the beauty of the world through his perspectives.

The film explores the fundamental issues about human nature in depth, which was beautifully captured in various shots and montages in the film. Yes, the world could be a better place if everyone acts and behave the same as the rest, but is there a point for doing that? Is submission to social conformity truly the right thing to do? Without feelings and emotions, can we truly say that we are alive? Human nature is fundamentally flawed. It is undeniably true that human greed, ignorance, lust for power and selfishness destroy and hinder us from creating a heaven on Earth, but there's also a hidden potential for good in humanity...there's love, friendship, compassion, mercy, wisdom, humility, benevolence. When there's love, there's hatred. When there's order, there's chaos. When there's life, there's death...As we witness death, we experience pain and loss, these feelings and emotions validates our love for one another, it also allows us to appreciate the time we have and the life we've been given. They're all and one. They come in one 'package'.

The film also points out that it is the search for truth that truly liberates us and gives us real freedom, not hiding from it (Ignorance). In the film, you can see the look of amazement on Jonas' face as he sees the snow, animals, hears various music and dances, beautiful sunset for the first time. Most notably, his newfound love for Fiona, compassion for the baby Gabriel and finally his decision to give the people back their freedom to feel and to choose. We can also see his struggles, his sadness and frustrations when he learns about the darker side of human nature. We can see that Brenton Thwaites and Jeff Bridges both provided a decent performance to carry the film and successfully deliver the novel's core messages well. Meryl Streep done what she could for for her rather limited role as the Chief Elder. Taylor Swift's cameo appearance was rather surprising as well. It's rather unfortunate that it needs the success of two immensely popular book series (The Hunger Games and Divergent) to greenlight this film. As a result, it feels all too familiar and it does give the feeling that we have all seen this before. It's such a shame.

Rating: 7.5/10

"Wrath, Lust, Envy, Pride, Sloth, Gluttony, Greed. Learn to accept the fact that we cannot change human nature. That's who we are as a species. But, there's also goodness in us. Our potential to have mercy, wisdom, compassion, humility, ethics, honour, benevolence...hidden deep within us. In times of peril and hardship, try to remain strong and have faith not in who we are, but in the potential that we could do better."

Previous Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey
Next Review: The Gathering

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