Small Screen Quarantine – Equilibrium (2002)

Three quotes from the omnipresent “Father” of the future city of Libria, the Post-World War III Utopian Future City where war, hatred, greed, jealousy and class difference have been eradicated.

“Libria, I congratulate you. At last peace reigns in the heart of man. At last war is but a word whose meaning fades from our understanding. At last, we are whole. Librians, there is a disease in the heart of man. Its symptom is hate. Its symptom is anger. Its symptom is rage. Its symptom is war. The disease is human emotion. But Libria, I congratulate you, for there is a cure for this disease. At the cost of the dizzying highs of human emotion, we have suppressed its abysmal lows. And you, as a society, have embraced this cure: Prozium. Now we are at peace with ourselves and human kind is one. War is gone. Hate, a memory. We are our own conscience now, and it is this conscience that guides us to rate EC-10, for emotional content, all those things that might tempt us to feel, again, and destroy them. Librians, you have won. Against all odds, and your own natures. You, have, survived.”

“Prozium – The great nepenthe. Opiate of our masses. Glue of our great society. Salve and salvation, it has delivered us from pathos, from sorrow, the deepest chasms of melancholy and hate. With it, we anesthetize grief, annihilate jealousy, obliterate rage. Those sister impulses towards joy, love, and elation are anesthetized in stride, we accept as fair sacrifice. For we embrace Prozium in its unifying fullness and all that it has done to make us great.”

“In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth; that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man’s inhumanity to man – his ability to feel.”

That pretty much tells you everything you need to know. No spoilers because most of it is narrated by Father in the first 5 minutes. What does it look like as a film? As a story? It looks like 1984 meets Minority Report meets The Matrix. It works.

It fits in neatly into what I’ve been babbling about in recent days about historical revisionism and manipulating emotions connected to history to create a unified future vision. It fits in better with my rambles about art exploring what exactly it is that makes us human. It’s about what makes us alive. It’s about life examined and unexamined. It’s about discovering one’s humanity and the components of it.

How does it play out? It’s not perfect. It’s actually pretty good, but I’ll be damned if it’s not Christian Bale playing Keanu Reeves playing Neo. The wardrobe doesn’t exactly do anything to offset that, but I kept expecting him to pause and say, “Whoa! I know kung fu!”

Nah man, seriously, it’s a clever film. Very well done. Stylistically though it’s going to seem very familiar. It’s got Wachowskis all over it. I have to look at it though from a perspective broader than the quality of the film itself and in the context of all my explorations in recent months to get the full value. See above notes. I’ve got a theme going.

It would be really easy to lump this into an anti-communist cum anti-totalitarian political genre, but you really have to go past that. Think about emotions on an individual level and what repression of those emotions does. Weigh your ability to feel the good things against the price you pay for feeling pain, or even discomfort. That’s really what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the pricetag on love and happiness. You could take every struggle in the film and put it into terms of inner struggle. It speaks to our almost fascist tendencies to want to medicate away any bad feeling we experience, and our loss of perspective on the difference between real suffering and temporary discomfort. The people of Libria are mandated to take their medication (Prozium cute – Prozac/Lithium har har) but they do administer it on their own. The pressure to join the self-medicating craze can feel like a mandate sometimes. Take it from an outsider… bad phrasing there considering the topic. Do-over! Okay, heed the words of someone who chooses not to do it.

Put it any terms you want really. I happened on this film quite by accident, by the way. I saw an article about the best films being cut from Netflix this week and gave it a shot.

No complaints.

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