Equilibrium – A Place Where You Are Not Allowed to Feel
Have you ever imagined a world where you were not able to feel? Where it was forbidden by law to have any kind of emotion? Where you were trained since very young to be immune to stimuli which could make your soul vibrate? I think maybe you did not go that far with your train of thought or maybe you reflected on it for a second and left it hanging, because it would be too outrageous to believe such a thing is possible.
Without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock ticking.
Yet, the 2002 Kurt Wimmer-directed and produced movie gives quite an accurate representation of what a world like this would look like and not feel like. Yet, this kind of system could only be sustained by a daily use of drugs provided by the state which would suppress any kind of emotional attachment, feelings and art.
In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth;that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law:The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man's inhumanity to man - his ability to feel. The Father
Doesn’t it sound familiar? That’s because every totalitarian regime was/is built on the same idea: a certain elite would suppress whatever it thinks would undermine its power and thus, would do everything in its power to keep it out of society’s reach. This elite would resort to the usual method: outlaw whatever seems to give too much freedom of thought to people and with the use of propaganda, it would coerce people into thinking that whatever was chosen was done in their best interest.
You cannot get angry. You can get even.
The totalitarian regime of the 20th century aimed at creating another world, another society by breaking and shaking to its core the old traditions, perceptions and how to do this better than by changing the one responsible of everything? Totalitarianism aimed at destroying the human mind and soul, in order to create a tabula rasa which could be molded into everything they wished for. This would lead to the appearance of a nation of submissive and subdued people who would only operate in the reality the elite created for them.
Intrinsically, humans, as creatures of the Earth were drawn inherently always back to one thing --war. And thus we seek to correct not the symptom but the disease itself. We have sought to shrug off individuality, replacing it with conformity. Replacing it... with sameness... with unity, allowing each man, woman, and child in this great society to lead identical lives. The Father
Therefore, we can safely conclude that every totalitarian regime was an alternate reality born out of a few people’s mind who ascended to power by aggression or semi-lawful means. Here, people were supposed to behave in accordance with certain prescribed rules of those in power, in order to fit their fantasy. Yet, here is where such regimes fail and fail big. People are usually yearning to be free and would accept only very few restrictions of their liberties and only when it’s necessary. Along with power, freedom has been one of the main forces of history and thus, no matter how harsh and strict a regime is, there will come a time when people will destroy it piece by piece.
This may be the message that Equilibrium is getting across: such an absurd regime based on inhibiting feelings cannot exist in a world that is trying to always be freer than it was. Try as they might, the supreme leader known as the Father and the Tetragrammaton Council could not forever suppress human emotion. Those who enforce the law in Libra are known as the Clerics which gives the regime an almost religious quality. The no-feelings ideology is the supreme and only truth in Libria and thus, no other religion/ideology/set of ideas can compete with it. This is also the reason why the ones who are constantly on the watch for it to be respected are called Clerics: because they are the priests of a religion with a human god.
It's my job to know what you're thinking.
Yet, even the fact that such a regime needs to be constantly enforced is a sign that it was not what the people would have naturally chosen. If a society needs to be systematically reminded of what it should be doing by means of propaganda or by policing their belongings, such a regime is doomed to failure sooner or later. And it turns out that one of those supposed to protect it was the one who brought about its destruction. Cleric Preston lost his wife in the name of the ideology and what is more, he was the one who revealed that she still had feelings. Thus, he became a very strict Grammaton Cleric and he managed never to respect the absurd laws the Father came up with.
However, when he interrogated a woman “guilty” of the same “sin” his wife “committed”, he felt something tingling inside him, a certain likeliness for the woman in front him. And what this gets to show is that no matter how many laws restricted it or on how many drugs he was on to get rid of it, his human quality had never left him. Whenever we think a certain society is lost and expect nothing to change, that is the moment when freedom bursts open again from people’s souls and minds. Freedom is a force in itself, a continuous flame which burns everything around it. This way, Cleric Preston – one of the best the Libran regime had – went himself to find the oppossiton entitled the Underground, in order to cooperate for bringing the regime down.
Jurgen: We've been watching you, Preston.
Jurgen: You're feeling. [pauses] Do you know why you came?
The Underground chose him to be the one who will directly challenge the totalitarian regime by murdering its foremost leader:The Father. Thanks to his position in the totalitarian hierarchy, Preston managed to get fairly easy to the Father only to find out that there wasn’t one and what they saw on tv were nothing but early recordings of the Father since he had been dead for a long time. Preston, dressed in white as the saviour of the people living in Libra, managed to destroy every state institution and to reveal the truth about their ruler.
But I being poor, have only my dreams, I have spread my dreams under your feet, tread softly because you tread on my dreams. W.B. Yeats
Therefore, a totalitarian regime may not need to be destroyed or resented by all those who live in it, but by certain chosen people who realise that such a system cannot last forever and that it inhibits the free flow of ideas, feelings and creative output which makes the world a better, happier place. Equilibrium is a movie which challenges our perception of totalitarian regimes and also, brings to the forefront of our thinking the wicked idea that maybe such a system is not really out of grasp. This is what I think is the most striking aspect of movie, besides its sheer absurdity:that it can easily be translated into reality, if people/we are not careful enough.
Certainly, the movie and Bale’s saviour complex are more or less cliches, yet, the director did manage to send a poweful message across and to challenge the viewers’ perspective.
The only thing more powerful than the system, is the man that will overthrow it.