The Giver: In  pursuit of truth


Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, Odeya Rush, Taylor Swift

Phillip Noyce

Endowed with a splendid cast of thespians and young actors, this is a movie that will (hopefully) help  youth to think deeper and better about life and their place in a  world of impoverished  social values and shrinking parental control.

Loosely adapted from Lois Lowry’s prize winning novel of the same name, and directed by Patriot Games’ Phillip Noyce, “The Giver” does not suggest that teens should live their lives unencumbered by parental diktat. Rather, it explores natural, impulsive behaviour and the value of emotions and free will alongside contentious subjects like mercy killing. But euthanasia in the movie is a euphemism for outright murder.

And our young hero Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) goes through a painful process of disillusionment and self-discovery before he becomes aware of the true nature of the community in which he lives and strives to act in ways that will forever change it. At least, that’s how it pans out in the movie in a pointed departure from Lowrie’s ambiguous or open ending.

It must be pointed out though that unlike the protagonists in William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ or  ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins, Jonas and other teenagers do not carry out acts as atrocious as those committed by adults. In real life, it’s another story and I am thinking of the juvenile monster who brutalised poor Nirbhaya, in this reel story, the adults do not see themselves as villains: Jonas’ father (Skarsgaard) lethally injects a baby.

Brainwashed as they are, they are plainly delusional with exceptions like the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) and the aged Giver (Jeff Bridges) who is the sole keeper of the community’s memories

which must now be transmitted to the chosen one, Jonas. To be fair to the Elders, it must be said that there is something good about the community.

The Chief is a woman. (Gentle reader, patriarchy is neither natural nor biological). Friendship is

encouraged. People are “protected” from dealing with conflict, sickness, suffering and loss. But the Elders achieve their utopia by jettisoning emotions like love. Oppressive rules are wielded to

creating uniformity.

As the viewer and Jonas realises parity has been achieved through erasing memories and the ability to see colour or dance or hear music or feel deep emotions. Which is why, when the story begins, everything is monochromatic black and white.

The Elders exercise control over the climate and even alter landscapes. But The Giver tries to succeed with Jonas where he had failed with his own daughter (Taylor) and teaches him that memory makes us wise. Or should. And as the boy “experiences” the horrors of war and other evils, through the memories of the Giver, he begins to “see” things as they actually are: As you can see, “The Giver” has a message for us all. But some people never learn. Do we?

Ronita Torcato

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