By Dave Andrusko
Ordinarily it makes no matter to me whether I see a pre-screening of a movie. I know enough about film to know that the final product can be dramatically different.
But, having said that, I would very much have liked to have seen the prescreening for “The Giver,” Lois Lowry’s remarkably enduring 1993 book that all my kids read in high school and which has now been made into a Hollywood movie that opens today.
In normal circumstances, I would bring my entire family to the local AMC tonight or tomorrow, but the next week is so impossibly busy for my clan that I might not be able to attend for a bit. But I would like to take a few minutes of your time to do two things without spoiling your enjoyment of the film by too many spoilers.
First, with the exception of a dyspeptic review by a grumpy New York Times film critic, the response has been virtually uniformly encouraging, even laudatory. If you’ve read the book, or even skimmed a précis, you know The Giver explores ground rarely trod in Young Adolescent (yes, the term has initial capitals) fiction. Lowry wrote a book for adolescents that provokes conversation (and controversy) in readers of all ages. The film, we’re told, is faithful to the work.
Second, when describing, The Giver, it is almost universally described (in shorthand) as a “dystopian novel for youth.” The overtones are similar but not identical to the therapeutic tyrannies of Huxley’s “Brave New World,” Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” Nolan’s and Johnson’s “Logan’s Run,” and (naturally) Orwell’s “1984.”
Of course, control is the controlling motif, all for the “good” of the village. The price of “perfection” is the ostensible obliteration not only of all pain and suffering [seemingly] but of all differences and all the imperfect as well.
Lowry always insists she doesn’t write “message” novels, but it would difficult to miss the horror of what is called “release”–infanticide of infants (there is a scene where a baby is killed—at the “Nurturing Center”– but using camera angles that do not show the actual injection) and euthanasia of the elderly.
Naturally I thought of Europe which is racing head-long into an embrace of wide-open euthanasia where there are no criteria or age-limitations. All done for the betterment of an ever-growing number of “patients.”
But the leaders of the almost-hermetically sealed village of The Giver realize that while knowledge of the past is off-limits, “in order to make wise communal decisions, someone must be the lonely bearer of all the memories,” writes columnist Michael Gerson. “Jonas is chosen [to be the next Receiver of Memory] and discovers that the banishment of pain and difference has also involved the banishment of beauty, art, music and love.”
I don’t want to push this too far, but I honestly believe that as the Culture of Death extends its tentacles, fewer and fewer people will remember a day when we didn’t dispose of the powerless without qualm; when the Bioethical Establishment didn’t joyfully anticipate a time when we can “screen out” all babies with the “wrong” genetic makeup; when it wasn’t an exercise of “autonomy” to kill unborn (and born) babies simply because they are girls rather than boys.
You and I will ensure that our children are all Receivers of Memory. You and I will pass along the truth that we grow not by the lethal avoidance of difficulty but by what Jonas demonstrates in the book’s final scene: the willingness to sacrifice to save a baby sure to be killed.
I hope you go see The Giver as soon as possible. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.