Lois Lowry’s Newberry Medal-winning 1993 novel, The Giver, is finally being adapted into a film after 20 years in the making, and it looks that there may have been a very good reason for its delay. The dystopian young adult novel has many key elements highlighted throughout the text that can contribute to today’s society more so than it would have back in the early 90’s.
The film version is helmed by director Phillip Noyce of Salt and Revenge fame and stars newcomer Brenton Thwaites from Disney’s Maleficent as the titular character of Jonas. Thwaites is joined by Academy Award-winners Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep as The Giver and The Chief Elder, respectively. The rest of the cast includes A-Listers such as Taylor Swift, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård and additional newcomer Odeya Rush as Fiona – the leading female role.
The Giver follows Thwaites’s character, Jonas, as he dares to step outside of his assigned daily routine and comes upon an elderly man known as “The Giver.” Jonas learns that The Giver’s role is to provide those that determine society’s course of life, The Elders, with wisdom from the past so they can better govern their community. Jonas’s world is seemingly perfect – a world without war, suffering or pain that has converted itself to “sameness”. As Jonas continues to learn from The Giver, he discovers that his society has also eradicated itself entirely of emotional depth. There is no sadness, fear or anger, but desirable emotions such as love and joy are nonexistent as well. The more Jonas learns and the more colors that are breathed into his life, the more willing he is to test the boundaries of his contained society. Jonas’s life soon becomes endangered when he pushes the laws of the system too far and chaos ensues.
One wonders why The Giver Film has been 20 years in the making and what may have been the reasoning for it. The fact that cinematic technology has improved dramatically within the past two decades could be a valid reason- the filmmakers may wish to use top-notch cinematography due to the fact that the story is based far in the future. Another main reason that is believed is the relevance and direct correlation of certain issues in the present society with themes demonstrated in the novel’s text.
Dystopian fiction is becoming more popular each year in the entertainment industry with titles like The Hunger Games, Divergent and now The Giver. The growing popularity could be due to the fact that individuals of today’s world relate with those of these dystopian universes more so than they realize. The relation can come from a number of directions. Today’s political world has many correlating lines with these types of fictions as does the falseness of certain mediums of the entertainment industry such as reality television. The theme that greatly stands out specifically in The Giver is that of the emotional depravity experienced throughout society. The world that is lived in today has more emotional depravity than what is realized.
Fathers will tell their sons not to cry, show sadness or feel emotion at all because they will appear weak, submissive and less masculine to their peers. Women are living in fear from domestic abuse and have resulted in feigning love and joy to appease the men that were once those boys being reprimanded by their fathers and are now incapable of having an emotional connection. Issues like these are examples of the extreme, but they are prevalent issues, nonetheless. Society, especially in America, is gradually becoming more susceptible to emotional suppression all deriving from the fear of letting the world know their true feelings.
The novel is read and taught in school systems around the world and also arises controversy in some particular educational systems, apparently due to its subject matter. Lois Lowry states she was never quite certain of the reasoning for the controversy on The Giver, but it is now believed that the aforementioned social issues could be a very large factor in the dispute over her novel.
The Giver film may have been 20 years in the making for a reason and that reason holds a potentially great importance for the future of society. One can only hope that the public will be able to read between the lines when The Giver opens in theaters on August 15, 2014.
Opinion by Cody Collier