IVP - Andy Unedited - True Equilibrium

April 22, 2014

True Equilibrium

I was recently rewatching the 2002 Kurt Wimmer film Equilibrium when I suddenly realized this is Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451 all over again. But it wasn't a crass failure of imagination. No, Wimmer was doing what many writers, artists and movie makers do--borrowing from a past work to offer an homage while providing a few twists of his own.

Both stories Fahrenheit 451.jpegare dystopias. Both concern government-mandated book burning to control the population. Both involve a main character assigned to enforce the prohibitions but who slowly comes under the sway of what he is supposed to be destroying. In both the oppressive government is itself ultimately destroyed.

The differences separating these two stories, written fifty years apart, illuminate the changes that have taken place in society in those intervening years. While the enforcers in Fahrenheit 451 are firemen, in Equilibrium they are clerics. In Bradbury's world, civil servants are the front line of government policy. In Wimmer's, a quasi-religious order of martial arts experts are the tools of the dictatorship. Religion linked with violence is now the ultimate villain.

An equilibrium.jpegadditional difference is telling. With Bradbury, ideas are banned. Ideas raise questions, elevate expectations, inspire change. Rulers do not want such uncertainties released which might upset their control of the people. So their idea is to destroy ideas by burning books.

In Equilibrium, on the other hand, emotions are banned. Anger and jealousy cause wars and unrest. The rulers feel that with no emotion, there will be no violence--except a lot of government-instigated violence against those who refuse their emotion-eliminating drugs.

Of course, Bradbury's point is that ideas should not be banned and Wimmer's that emotions should not be suppressed. In the one, ideas are supreme. In the other, emotions are the ultimate good.

Some may decry the triumph of emotion over ideas in the last half century, and I am one of them. Doing what feels right or good is not a recipe for living well. But cold, heartless ideas aren't adequate either. We need ideas and emotion to balance each other and shape one another. We should be full of both grace and truth.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at April 22, 2014 11:32 AM Bookmark and Share

Comments are closed for this entry.

Get Email Updates

You'll get an email whenever a new entry is posted to Andy Unedited

Blog Favs

Subscribe to Feeds

Got a Book Idea?

Please follow our submissions guidelines. We cannot respond to book proposals or inquiries within the context of this blog.

Get to Know IVP

book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.