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Monday, October 11, 2010

Never Let Me Go and The Island

Never Let Me Go is a movie just out which is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro (who also wrote The Remains of the Day). Never Let Me Go has a plot similar to a 2005 movie, The Island.

***** spoilers below *****

Both movies tell of clones grown and raised for one purpose - to be organ donors. The similarity ends there, though ...

In The Island, the clones are forever kept in the dark about their purpose, and when it's time for someone's organs to be harvested, their absence is explained through the winning of a trip to a tropical island. When a pair of clones accidentally finds out what's really going on, they escape, mount a rescue of their fellows, and expose the horror of their situation to the unknowing public; the clones existentially :) validate their intrinsic worth and the public can be trusted to back them up.

- Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson in The Island

In Never Let Me Go, however, things are very different. The public is aware of the clones and their purpose, signing off on it, and the clones themselves, once they learn of their destiny, accept it; they receive their life's purpose from others and the public rationalizes away the moral unfairness of the situation.

While Never Let Me Go may be the better move (I haven't seen it yet) with its character-driven emphasis, I like the view of human nature portrayed in The Island (which I have seen) better.

Roger Ebert gave Never Let Me Go four stars. Instead of pasting his review here, though, I've pasted a little from a post at a blog I visit, In Living Color, that I thought was insightful .....

Never Let Me Go

[...] The eerie thing is that there's no overt coercion involved. There are no thugs dragging these people to hospitals. Kathy, the main character, gets special privileges as a 'carer' - she helps others through their medical ordeals - but then she eventually becomes a donor herself. She puts up some resistance at points, but mostly she's compliant.

Kathy isn't zombie-like, but she does have a tendency to be a little too obsessed with surfaces and details. Why doesn't she get her mind off minutiae and focus on the big picture? Why doesn't she hide or run away? There's no simple answer, but the key thing seems to be the clones' perception that they have a role to play. That role is not to their liking, but they're resigned to it ....

We are told the cloning project began in the 1950s. Kathy seeks out a former teacher who explains it to her: 'How can you ask a world that has come to regard cancer as curable, how can you ask such a world to put away that cure, to go back to the dark days?' Once the project had begun to save lives, it couldn’t be stopped. '... [Y]ou were kept in the shadows, and people did their best not to think about you. And if they did, they tried to convince themselves you weren't really like us. That you were less than human, so it didn't matter.'

Unrealistic? The story brings to my mind many types of exploitation we're unable to go back on - like relying on extremely cheap labour in third-world countries so we can afford a luxurious life-style.

The novel makes me think about animal experimentation as well, though I don't think that was Ishiguro's intention. What intrigues him is compliance - letting yourself be treated as a means ..... in Ishiguro's novel, [there is] a group of progressives who want the clones to be raised in better schools and orphanages. Sadly, eerily, these more enlightened people can imagine reform but can't imagine wholesale change. Too much has been gained by thinking of the clones as a subordinate class with merely instrumental value.

On animal experimentation and many other issues, I wonder how different we really are from the benighted society of Ishiguro's novel. There's such a thing as a point of moral no-return, a point where nobody can even see the problem, and even witting victims can't contemplate resistance.

Here's the trailer for the film ....


Blogger Comma said...

I've watched both movies, but "Never Let Me Go" is absolutely amazing. I've yet to read the book, but I'm surely planning on it, and I'm surely also going to buy the DVD to watch over and over again. I never really liked "The Island" too much, but as for "Never Let Me Go," it totally left me sobbing, sober, and my perspective on mortality changed.

I would definitely recommend it if you haven't seen it yet.

3:09 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for the comment. I haven't yet watched Never Let Me Go and haven't read the book yet either. So many people have said they like both, so maybe I will at least give the movie a try.

12:36 AM  

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