The perfect flaw

The Giver depicts a world that’s utopian, but hides a horrifying secret in its idealistic fold

The perfect flaw
War or peace? Happiness or placidity? Pain or sedateness? Sameness or choice? The Giver faces a question of answers. Directed by Phillip Noyce and written by Michael Mitnick, The Giver stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush and Taylor Swift. The film is an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1993 best-seller The Giver, a sci-fi novel that won the 1994 Newbery Medal and has more than 11 million copies in print worldwide, in 21 languages.

The Giver is set in a seemingly perfect world where there is no conflict, racism or sickness and every member of society is assigned a specific role when s/he enters the 12th year of life. The community feels no pain or strife as they have converted to “sameness”, but this has its side effects – there is no emotional depth in their lives.

When he turns 12, Jonas (Thwaites) is assigned his life’s work: he is chosen to be The Receiver, the person who will now hold the entire community’s memories. The former Receiver, now the Giver (Bridges), must transfer all his memories over. Jonas, who has always believed that he lived in the perfect world, begins to learn more about his placid and controlled environment. With no feelings whatsoever, there are also no memories (except for the Receiver). So while people have been shielded from sickness, disease, hunger, sorrow and pain, they have lost out on things that give meaning and depth to life — be it sunshine, colour, music, friendship and love.

The authority’s control is total. Members of society who don’t fit — be it a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night or an adult who digresses from rules — are sent elsewhere where they are euthanised. People who have feelings of sexuality or “Stirrings” are given pills to deal with it, marriages are arranged, babies are born only by selected Birth Mothers (who never meet them), and are doled out to married couples who apply to receive them. Despite all this, people are happy for they know not of a better life.

As he grows into the Receiver’s role, Jonas, the only person who experiences pain, suffering and joy, realises that his forefathers gave up humanity many years ago in order to have a stable society. But is a life of Sameness really living? Unable to take the placidity any longer, Jonas is driven, with the help of the Giver, to do something to change his and his society's fate. Will he be able to?

The Giver, which has developed a cult following, is one of the most banned and challenged books in recent times. It seems to depict a world that’s utopian, but actually hides a horrifying secret in its idealistic fold. The film adaptation has been long in the making. Bridges has wanted to film the futuristic novel for years (he wanted his own father, Lloyd Bridges, to play the Giver), but found himself in a fix when Warner Bros bought the rights in 2007. The rights ultimately ended up with The Weinstein Company and Walden Media.

But all’s well that ends well. The author has given the film her nod of approval: “It’s all there. The boy. The old man. The baby. The sled. If you loved the book take my word for it — you’ll love the movie as well,” she says on the film’s poster. She seems to say it all! zz

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