‘The Giver’ shows us a dystopic world where life is dehumanized and love is lost

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

8/21/2014

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The Giver opens in theaters nationwide Aug. 15.

Movie:The Giver
Release Date: Aug. 15
Presented by:Walden Media and The Weinstein Company
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift, Emma Tremblay

A film promoter recently invited me to watch an advance screening of the new science-fiction film, The Giver, and said the movie had a strong pro-life message. I admit I was a bit skeptical at first, wondering how any sci-fi film coming out of Hollywood could contain a pro-life message. But I was curious enough to check it out.

The movie is based on the book of the same name, by Lois Lowry, which won the 1994 Newbery Medal, awarded by the American Library Association for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” It has sold more than 10 million copies.

Early into this movie, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. I wouldn’t classify this film simply as sci-fi. It’s in a genre of its own, using science fiction and fantasy to make relevant points about the way a society might evolve from utopia to dystopia. In such a totalitarian society, people are dehumanized. They are too afraid and complacent to wage any sort of challenge against those who control them.

Like the book, the movie is set in a place simply named, “The Community.” A culture of “Sameness” exists here. No one wins, no one loses, no one has any more or less than anyone else. Pain and suffering have been eliminated here, and only one old man, “The Receiver” (Jeff Bridges), retains memories from the past.

The wise sage transmits these memories to the story’s young main character, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), and after that, the old man is referred to as “The Giver.”

In this world, a “Committee of Elders” undertakes a “Matching of Spouses” process to form a family unit. A compatible man and woman are chosen, and two children are selected from birth mothers for “Placement” within the prescribed family unit. There is no extended family here. When their children mature, parents become “Childless Adults” and go off to live with others in the same stage of life. Eventually, they end up isolated from others at the “House of the Old,” and there they stay until the community fetes them with a “Ceremony of Release” to “Elsewhere.”

Similarly, babies who fail a “maturity test” or those considered to be “duplicates” from a set of twins, are also destined for a “Ceremony of Release.”

In the movie and in the book, we are given a vivid example of this. The young lead character, Jonas, witnesses via video transmission, an inside look at a secretive “Ceremony of Release” for the young, when the smaller baby from a set of twins is given a lethal injection.

Appalled and shocked at what he has seen, Jonas tells the Giver that this is no ceremony. It is death!

The compassionate Giver tries to console the young man, explaining that these people in the community who carry out the death procedures and those who condone it, don’t really fathom what they are doing. They just don’t know any better and have been conditioned to accept it.

Sound familiar?

Yes, this futuristic movie has a strong pro-life theme, relevant to today’s times. My apologies to the movie promoter who invited me to see this film. I doubted him, but now I understand.

Different audiences will have their own special takeaways from this film, but Catholics and others who defend the lives of the unborn will be struck by the pro-life message. And the message gets stronger as the movie progresses, when Jonas learns about another baby destined for “Release,” but this time has the opportunity to do something about it.

After seeing this film, you might be compelled to read the book, if you have not already. This is not a story where the book is better than the movie or vice versa. Each is outstanding in its own way.

In addition to the millions of copies already printed, a new edition has been published with an introduction by the author and interviews with the movie’s cast members.

In author Lois Lowry’s own words, in the introduction of the new special edition of The Giver, the book is “introspective, quiet, and short on action.” Its story, however, is powerful.

In the movie, exciting visual effects take the place of creative prose. The effects, however, are not over-the-top as in so many sci-fi thrillers. Instead, parts of the film play out as something of an extreme fast-forward glimpse of the very best National Geographic films and magazine covers. They depict life.

The directors do a remarkable job of showing us, through cinematic montages, our vibrant and colorful world. We see it through all the joy and celebration, the sweat and the toil, and the pain and the suffering of its people. And we witness love, a word extinct from The Giver’s community.

If you believe our society could one day grow too complacent to respect life, family values and freedom — or perhaps is already there — you may gain added insight from this movie and the book that inspired it. And if there are young adults in your household, this movie, which raises many ethical and moral questions, is a must-see. It is a perfect companion piece to a powerful book that inspires critical thinking on important issues that confront us daily.

Added reading
Title: The Giver Movie Tie-In Edition
Author: Lois Lowry
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 256

The-Giver-Poster-BUTTON.jpgA film promoter recently invited me to watch an advance screening of the new science-fiction film, The Giver, and said the movie had a strong pro-life message. I admit I was a bit skeptical at first, wondering how any sci-fi film coming out of Hollywood could contain a pro-life message. But I was curious enough to check it out. The movie is based on the book of the same name, by Lois Lowry, which won the 1994 Newbery Medal, awarded by the American Library Association for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” It has sold more than 10 million copies.

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