Movie: The Giver, Produced by: As Is Productions, Tonik Productions, Walden Media, August 2014
Director: Phillip Noyce
Jeff Bridges: The Giver
Meryl Streep: Chief Elder
Brenton Thwaites : Jonas
Based on the 1993 novel by Lois Lowry, The Giver
There is often a very fine line between the ever-illusory Utopia, the dream of a perfect world, and the more realistic Dystopia, the dream gone haywire. The Giver is one of the finest stories which clearly illustrates this delicate line with bold strokes of imagination and credible outcomes. There are no aliens, mutants, subterranean monsters or sea creatures which come along and try to devour the humans in their reconstructed, post-apocalyptic world. The Giver is a story of the human race finally having achieved a perfect society where there is no more war, hunger, poverty and pain. There are no more people with disabilities, no more racial tensions, no diversity, no religion, no violence, and no suffering. The price of this perfection is the absence of free will. Emotions which govern many choices have been eliminated. Memories which may cause people to fall back into the same patterns of mistaken living have been erased. The elders of this perfect world hold all the power. They decide who is qualified to live and who is not, they decide which family you are given to, and which career you shall perform when you come of age.
Jonas, the main character in the story, has reached the age of vocations and he is assigned the lifelong responsibility of The Receiver by the chief elder and the committee of elders. He is to report to the aging Receiver to accept all the memories of the past and basically hold on to those memories for the entire community which is free of this terrible burden. Citizens no longer have a concept of history, so they understand nothing about war and violence. Because of The Receiver they are not weighed down with the trials and tribulations of humanity sprung from a world that didn’t know how to love properly. Love has been eliminated and replaced with temperance of all emotions by using “precise language.” The result of this authoritarian and restricted society is that without pain, there is no pleasure; without sadness, there is no joy; without choice, there is no life – only existence. The primary way that the elders control society is to practice euthanasia on members that are inadequate.
The Giver offers ample messages to our increasingly homogenized world where diversity is endangered by globalization; where religion is seen as antiquated and useless by the non-believers who wish to erase it from the public forum; where an ever-increasing trend to produce a child of the right gender, the right race, the right physical or mental abilities, or arriving at the most convenient moment threatens to exclude the uniqueness of God’s plan for humanity. The Giver offers us a warning (as most dystopic stories do) that if we continue on this course we may eliminate the very treasures in life that bring the most joy. Human life is an unpredictable array of choices. Is there a price for these treasures, for these choices, for this joy? Of course. There is pain and there is suffering. The Giver forces us to ask a simple question: is it worth it?