For the purpose of creating a peaceful society, the antagonist, Father, who is ruler of Libria in Kurt Wimmer’s film “Equilibrium” (2002), eradicates the “true source of man’s inhumanity to man” – one’s ability to feel. In this way, he believes as humankind is one, war is gone and hate is a memory. However, without feeling, it has no point for humans to exist, and Libria becomes simply a seemingly placid society, where citizens are not content with their lives at all. Mary O’Brien, who is arrested for violating the law of Libria says, “To feel is as vital as breath.
And without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock ticking” (Equilibrium 29:39). Having feeling, emotion, and expression is indispensable for human beings since the origin of mankind, but sometimes, having them ignites rage, wars, and conflicts. After all, it is basically the natural process they have to go through. “Equilibrium” is set in 2072 in Libria after the World War III. Father believes as long as people become emotionless, there will be no more war, thus enacting the law that people are required to take the daily injection of “Prozium”, which temporarily takes away people’s feelings.
What’s worse, Grammaton clerics are obliged to execute “sense offenders”, people who refuse to take the injection. All emotionally stimulating items are also prohibited, such as art, literature and music. One of the rebel clerics Errol Partridge says, “Everything that makes us what we are traded away” (Equilibrium 16:55). As he is caught by another elite cleric John Preston reading a book “The Poetry of William Butler Yeats”. Partridge states that life is meaningless without feelings and the exact meaning of humans’ existence is merely of nothing.
Somehow, Preston is not able to understand Partridge under the circumstances that he is emotionless, and therefore he kills him. Afterwards, Preston is assigned to destroy the underground society, where sense offenders gather. The turning point appears as Preston accidentally drops his Prozium and decides not to take it again. Actually, what makes his decision is because Father arranges that Preston’s Prozium to be changed to a Placebo, which enables Preston to feel and seduces him to stop taking Prozium. In this way, Preston may seek to join the underground society and then Father is able to decimate all of the sense offenders.
Instead, Preston plots with the Resistance to assassinate Father in order to return the society to what it should be, the emotional world. As we look at David Abram’s “Animism and the Alphabet”, he makes quite a few points on how much human sense is significant in his essay “Animism and the Alphabet. ” Without sensory experiences, pictographic, ideographic writing and even the phonetic alphabet can never be generated. Also, Abram believes that with the advent of technology, people rely on it day after day, and therefore, the interaction between people may decrease.
To explain this situation, first of all, they begin to substitute machines for workers, so there are fewer and fewer interactions between humans. Furthermore, with the rapid development of the Internet, the way people communicate with each other alter as well. They tend to utilize the convenience of the Internet to reach each other instead of face-to-face contact. “Our own perceptions and thoughts are being shifted by our sensory involvement with electronic technologies, since any thinking that seeks to discern such a shift is itself subject to the very effect that it strives to thematize” (Abram 44).
With regard to Equilibrium, in which people without feelings live for themselves, not caring for others, we can draw to a common conclusion that the interactions between human beings are necessary; otherwise, it will become a self-oriented world. “The first thing to learn about emotion is that it has its price- a complete paradox. But without restraint, without control, emotion is chaos” (Equilibrium 1:10:54). For fear of any clash or estrangement caused by emotion, it is suppressed by Prozium. Nonetheless, as people in Libria comfort to the authority, all of them do not have any identical personality or characteristic.
Every day, people live with no excitement, no freshness, and no love in a routine. As a consequence, “contact zone”, including “ideas, interests, histories, and attitudes of others” (497) defined by Mary Louise Pratt in her essay “Arts of the Contact Zone”, will not generate as well, for people are all in conformity without any uniqueness. Pratt believes as people with different cultures, beliefs, and ideas intersect, trans-culturation thus engenders. Unfortunately, there is no transculturation in Libria, for people do not even have their own identities.
To make matters worse, as the contact zone disappears, there’s no connection among humans. Then what is the purpose of living in the world if we cannot feel toward anything or anyone? “I live… to safeguard the continuity of this great society. To serve Libria” (Equilibrium 29:15), Preston answers Mary when she asks her why he is alive, and then she disparages him by saying “It’s circular. You exist to continue your existence. What’s the point? ” ( Equilibrium 29:24). From this perspective, provided that we do not feel, we are literally alive for ourselves, for we no longer concern anything around us.
It is ironic that Preston is even emotionless when his sense offender wife, Viviana, is sentenced to death. At the point when Mary is about to being processed, he asks to see the record of his wife being incinerated. The fact that he has no reaction when seeing his wife leaving him shocks him, and thus he decides not to lose his lover again, rushing to rescue Mary. Yet, it is too late. In the plot where Clerics discover there is a pack of dogs raised by the Resistance, they brutally shot each of them in case anyone’s emotion is evoked.
Surprisingly, one of the dogs sneaks out to Preston, who is full of emotion at that time. The moment the dog licks Preston’s face arouses his pity, which makes him not let go of it. Even though we are not able to communicate with dogs, we can somehow understand each other through our emotions. It is ridiculous that even dogs have feelings, while people in Libria lack them. I particularly understand how Preston feels when witnessing innocent dogs killed by those cold-blooded clerics. I have a dog named “Kuri”, which is a kind of Japanese breed “Shiba Inu”.
I left him in my hometown Taiwan this August because I come to Boston for further education at Northeastern University. He has accompanied me for two years so far, and we have deep feeling for each other. When I speak with different tones, I think he can understand me based on my emotions. Kuri has many expressions or actions. To elaborate, when he is curious or confused, he would keep moving his head to one side and another repeatedly. And when he is angry, he would begin to wrinkle his face. I regard this as his warning in case he bites me.
Most importantly, although we don’t communicate by a specific way, the contact zone between us can still lead to mutual understanding to some extent. The most touching thing to me is that whenever I am not in a good mood and burst into tears, he always comes to my side and leans on me, staying with me until I feel better. Despite the fact that we are unable to communicate directly, I believe at some points, we still understand each other through the emotion. I believe that Equilibrium is entitled to demonstrate the balanced, equal, and stable society which Father intends to create and conceives of it as a “utopian community. However, the truth is that even though Father blindly thinks it is utopian, Librians are actually suffering in the dystopian world without any freedom to feel. We humans should be grateful to experience emotion, to feel the world, and to enjoy its wonderfulness. Despite the fact that the fluctuation of emotion can sometimes lead to unpredicted consequences, we still need to appreciate its existence. Without feeling, we cannot sense anything from the natural world nor from the people surrounding us. As a result, our lives will be banal.
Abram, David. “Animism and the Alphabet.” Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Ninth Edition. Ed. David Barthlomae and Anthony Petrosky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s 2011. 28-62.Print
Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone.” Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Ninth Edition. Ed. David Barthlomae and Anthony Petrosky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s 2011. 485-498.Print
Equilibrium. Dir. Wimmer Kurt. Perf. Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs. Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 2002. Film.