'The Giver' praised for themes on free will, sanctity of life

Jeff Bridges from the film The Giver is interviewed by Raymond Arroyo. Credit: EWTN.

The new dystopian movie “The Giver” has drawn praise for its deep thematic content on the value of human life, suffering, free will and the dangers of a world that distorts language to do evil.

“We all love to be comfortable,” actor Jeff Bridges, one of the movie’s leads, told EWTN's The World Over host Raymond Arroyo in an interview broadcast Aug. 14. “The movie asks the questions: 'What are you willing to pay for that comfort? What does that comfort cost?'”

Bridges told Arroyo that he was drawn to the work because of its themes. “It’s provocative,” he added.

“Hopefully it will have people asking these questions: What am I willing to do just to be comfortable? What is that costing me? Is there any value to the suffering that life has for all of us?”

Bridges plays the title character in “The Giver,” based on the 1993 young adult book by Lois Lowry. The movie, which co-stars Meryl Streep, depicts a futuristic society that seems ideal, but is colorless. The society purports to eliminate passions and suffering, as well as past memories, in the name of sameness and harmony.

Bridges’ character transmits the community’s suppressed memories of its past to Jonas, played by young actor Brenton Thwaites. Thwaites plays the solitary role of a “receiver” of memories who learns the concealed truths about the society he lives in.

Lowry told Arroyo her vision for the book “was to take a young person to perceive the hypocrisy in the world and to try to do something to change it, to forestall a hideous future, and then put myself in the mind of that young boy.”

Michael Flaherty, president of the Walden Media entertainment company and producer of “The Giver,” reflected on one line in the movie: “Have faith that is beyond seeing.”

Flaherty said faith is “central” and “absolutely everything” to Walden Media films like “The Giver,” “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

“Everything we do is children believing in something and adults telling them that they’re crazy,” Flaherty said of Walden Media’s movies.

In “The Giver,” he said, the main character realizes “the way the totalitarian regime kept control over people.”

The regime imposed control “because they didn’t want people to think that there was an authority that was higher than the government.” The regime wanted to prevent belief in “an actual creator outside of the government” who “had endowed these people with free will.”

Though the leaders in the world of “The Giver” claim to prevent murder, Flaherty explained, “they just call it by a different name.”

Flaherty said the movie’s themes resembled those of dystopian writers George Orwell and Adolus Huxley, who saw that language “is one of the greatest weapons in the totalitarian arsenal.”

The movie shows what happens when rulers “can pervert the language” and “call something entirely different than what it is”

For instance, the movie depicts people who are called “nurturers” but commit infanticide. “Language is so important. You can call them ‘nurturers’, but they are still killers,” Flaherty reflected.

Arroyo said the movie is “one of the films that strikes the heart and speaks to our time.”

“The questions it raises about free will and the preciousness of every human life regardless of what society says are worthy of consideration,” he said.


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