Dare to Read

October 13, 2010

Never Let Me Go directed by Mark Romanek

Filed under: Movie Review — carmenferreiroesteban @ 6:33 pm
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by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

Dystopian societies are big these days in literature.

They have been for a while, I guess, but I wasn’t aware of it. I read Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm (the one with the talking pigs) and Huxley’s Brave New World, of course, long ago. But it was not until early this year when my friend Candace introduced me to Life As We Knew It that this trend came under my radar.

I read the three books in the Life As We Knew It trilogy and loved them. The world they describe is gloomy indeed and kind of hopeless, as it is the one in the Hunger Games trilogy and the zombie nightmare in The Forest of Hands and Teeth I read afterwards. But nothing had prepared me for the horror waiting in the alternate 1970s England where Never Let Me Go takes place.

The idea of raising (growing is a more likely description of the process) children with the only purpose of harvesting their organs is repulsive. And yet in this world, apparently, nobody questions the morality of doing so because these children are not thought to have a soul.

Because we are introduced to the children singing and attending classes and playing in their bucolic British boarding school, behaving in every way as children do, before being told (early in the movie, so this is not a big spoiler) what their purpose is, the revelation is shocking. For us, that is.

But the teachers, except one who is quickly fired, don’t question this. Neither do the children. They believe what they are told, whether this be that if they run after a ball beyond the school boundaries their hands and feet will be cut or that, when they are in their twenties, they are to give their organs to others as needed.

The movie does not question whether this is acceptable, but follows Kathy, Tommy and Ruth first as children, then as teens. Kathy who tells the story is not bitter, or angry and doesn’t, even once, rebels against her fate.

I was stunned.

What kind of society is this that sees children as parts and believe they don’t have a soul?

And yet…

It wasn’t so long ago that Freud and his pals argued that women did not have souls. Not so long ago that Hitler sent Jews to extermination camps, that slavery was allowed and people of colored sold and treated like animals.

So maybe this story is not so farfetched. Which makes it even more horrifying.

Are we humans really this cluelessly cruel?

Never Let Me Go is a breathtakingly beautiful movie and, despite or maybe because its harrowing subject, life affirming.

P.S. Never Let Me Go is based in the book of the same title by Kazuo Ishiguro

August 31, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Filed under: Books, Reviews — carmenferreiroesteban @ 4:58 pm
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The Hunger Games are the ultimate reality show: A fight to the death among 24 young people (the tributes), one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts, while the rich and spoiled people of the Capitol watch on, and bid for their favorites. Only a winner is allowed. A winner that will never be hungry again or forced to participate in the games.

The Games take place every year in the Capitol and are run by the government that rules the twelve districts, the remnants of the land that once was called North America. The Games are a reminder that “resistance is futile” as the Capitol has the power to destroy the districts if so wished, as it destroyed number thirteen seventy four years ago during the last rebellion.

As the book starts, sixteen years old Katniss volunteers to compete in the Games when her twelve years old sister is chosen to represent the 12th district. Katniss, who lost her father in a mine explosion at thirteen and has been since keeping her mother and little sister fed with her hunting, is determined to stay alive whatever the price. For Peeta, the male tribute from the same district, things are not so simple. Is it possible, he wonders, to play the Games without losing his humanity?

Those who think YA and/or Fantasy books are light fare may have to reconsider after reading this book because the question The Hunger Games asks: would you kill to stay alive? Would you kill an enemy, a friend, a lover? is not easy to answer.

Suzanne Collins’s premise in The Hunger Games is that yes, when hunted, we all become hunters. But killing a human being comes with a high price and the survivor will forever be haunted by the dead.

Being a Young Adult novel, the story ends with a note of hope (and BTW that is why I read/write YA novels). Yet the question remains, taunting the reader: how much of your humanity/your core beliefs will you give up to stay alive? to make a living? It’s a question we all have had (or will have) to answer sometime in our lives, even if the circumstances are not as extreme as in the novel and the price not so high.