Brave New World

Brave New World is a TV movie based on the Aldous Huxley novel of the same name. While I'm reviewing one particular movie adaptation my comments probably apply to other adaptations, and to the book, as well.

"Universal happiness keeps the wheels of society steadily turning."

The movie/book is a about a society of people who, through eugenics, have been bred in specific ways, ranging from the Alphas, who are the politicians (calling them "thinkers" would be incongruous, even though they are supposed to be the most intelligent), to the Deltas, the ones that do menial labour (at least in the movie version; in the book there are five classes). It's a caste system of sorts, and besides the genetic programming, the people are further psychologically conditioned to accept the "caste" that they belong to and be happy about it. As a final means of control, the citizens of the brave new world are also addicted to an intoxicating drug, Soma, which keeps them in a constant state of happiness.

"Unorthodoxy threatens society."

In this Utopia, there also exists a Savage Reservation where people who've chosen to not live this lifestyle exist. The story begins when a Shakespeare-quoting Savage, John Cooper (Tim Guinee) and his mother Linda (Sally Kirkland), are brought into the civilised world by two Alphas, Bernard Marx (Peter Gallagher) and Lenina Crowne (Rya Khilstedt). Even though it's obvious they're brought in as novelties to be gawked at, Cooper enters the brave new world with hope and excitement. He is soon disillusioned by the superficial lifestyles and the lack of passion, and starts encouraging disobedience and violation of the Utopian rules. This gives the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning (Miguel Ferrer) reason to put Marx's employment in the Hatchery on the line. However the Controller, Mustapha Mond (Leonard Nimoy), supports Marx's decision especially after being presented with compromising information about the DHC.

"Promiscuity is a citizen's duty. Everyone belongs to everyone else."

Marx, however, is not satisfied with being a conformist Alpha. In his heart, he really cares about Crowne, but neither are able to express their love for each other because of their conditioning. Further complicating the mix is that Cooper, with his Shakespearean notions of love, is unable to communicate his ideas to Crowne, who he falls in love with. When Cooper's mother dies from overdosing on Soma, he seeks refuge in an abandoned lighthouse. Meanwhile, Crowne realises she is pregnant, and Marx is the father. They eventually both leave Utopia just as Marx is about to be promoted to the position of the DHC, so they can raise the child together, thus overcoming their conditioning.

The ending here is a bit different than the book, and a bit of a cop out, but that detracts only slightly from the messages. Otherwise the movie remains fairly faithful to the book.

"62,400 repetitions make one truth."

Like with Orwell's 1984, this story illustrates the problem with totalitarian control. While Huxley's story, which preceded World War II, is far more generous and shows a system with genuinely benevolent intentions, the superficial happiness is achieved not only at a cost of great individual liberty, but also sacrificing science, art, and philosophy, and rewriting history. As the movie tries to show, no amount of conditioning can extinguish the human spirit to live and think freely. Cooper, Crowne, and Marx leave behind their legacy in a young boy who is attracted to their viewpoints.

"If you want it, you can have it."

The acting in the TV (1998) version is decent. One of the sole reasons I even bothered to watch it was the presence of Leonard Nimoy, who once played Spock from Star Trek, one of my favourite characters on TV, and he doesn't disappoint (hearing him laugh at the end is awkward for more than one reason). As is obvious, the movie isn't about plot or characters, but really about the concepts presented, and highly provocative ones at that.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||