The Giver

This is an older post from 2014, updated.  It seems even more relevant now. An interesting fact: the book has 9,500 reviews on Amazon and still has a four and a half star rating.

If  you haven’t read Lois Lowry’s book The Giver, then do yourself a favor. Download it for a few bucks. Buy the hard copy. You won’t regret it. This book, published in 1993, is one of those dystopian novels where the world is laid out through the eyes of a single character – a young boy named Jonas.

His world is fairly bleak. He lives with his parents- non-genetic parents, parents who were chosen for him when he was an infant – and a sister, who was chosen the same way. His father is a Nurturer, who tends to the Newborns in the community, and his mother is a judge who keeps track of the various infractions committed by community residents. The power mongers are on the council and their decisions are binding, iron-clad.

With each birthday, children in the community receive certain gifts- Nines receive a bike. Twelves receive their “assignment” for life. Everything in this community is monitored for the degree of sameness the residents exhibit. Jonas, at his twelfth birthday, is assigned the position of Receiver, an important and enigmatic position that places him in the internship of The Giver, the man who holds the community memories.

Our daughter recently read this book for the first time and called when she finished it. “Oh my God. I cried at the end of this. We have to go see the movie the next time I come home. I’m blown away by this book.”

The movie? This was the first I’d heard of it. “Who’s in it?”

“Jeff Bridges plays the Giver and Meryll Streep is the elder on the council.”

I Googled it. The reviews weren’t great. But anything with Bridges or Streep  is good enough for me. So when Megan came home for the weekend before her 25th birthday, she, Rob and I went to see The Giver.

For more than 90 minutes, I sat in this darkened theater completely enthralled. I had re-read the book before Megan came home, so it would be fresh in my mind. I realized that what had satisfied me twenty years ago when I’d read it had left me wanting this time, dissatisfied with the ending. But in the movie, that dissatisfaction vanished.

Movies provide various viewpoints and some of the most poignant scenes are those between Bridges as the Giver and Jonas as the Receiver. We come to realize that after whatever cataclysmic event changed things, the status quo (Council of elders) chose sameness over diversity. Through an unexplained technology and genetic engineering, they somehow erased the collective memories of the very emotions that make us human – love, passion, sensuality, sexuality, pain, sadness, grief, triumph, the tragedy of wars and their horrors.

Bridges is terrific as The Giver. His own daughter was selected as a Receiver a decade ago but as she was given the memories, she couldn’t stand it and asked to be “released.” And this word, released, has a precise meaning in this society of precise vocabulary.

In the movie, in the moment when Jonas actually understands and sees – through video – what this word actually means, is a powerful turning point. Jonas watches his dad – the nurturer- insert a syringe into the head of an identical twin whose weight isn’t up to snuff. His father doesn’t seem to understand that he is killing the twin.

In so many ways, the ending of the movie surpasses the book’s ending. This may be due to the fact that we see the moment when Jonas reaches the boundary of memories – and moves beyond it. Once he’s beyond it, the people of the community experience the return of memories of love and hate, war and peace, all the emotions that make us human.

Lois Lowry, as a writer, a novelist, set these ideas into motion. But Hollywood ran with them and made them real in a dynamic, visceral sense, And I haven’t even mentioned the character who is pivotal to the second plot point in the story, an infant named Gabriel…

You’re in for a treat with this one.

 

 

 

 

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15 Responses to The Giver

  1. c.j. says:

    I’m sad. I hadn’t realized that Bill Paxton had died until I just read Darren’s comments. Also, his comments about how often actors die from illnesses, etc. they portrayed in movie roles…..An example of that comes from the movie DARK VICTORY, in which Bette Davis played in the first one, Susan Hayward in the re-make, and then Elizabeth Montgomery in the second remake. The storyline of the movie is about a young wealthy socialite who dies from brain cancer, and who owns thoroughbred race horses. Davis passed from brain cancer. Susan Hayward, from Carrolton, GA, where in her real life she raised throughbred horses, died from brain cancer. Elizabeth Montgomery died from brain cancer. Three out of the three who had played that same role. My idea about this is that actors “become One” with their screen personas as a means of giving authentic performances , and we know that Thoughts Are Things. To become immersed in the “life” of the movie character, the actor “becomes”, temporarily, that character, which then carries over into their
    off-screen life. So awfully tragic!

    • Darren says:

      There is some real high strangeness involved between actors and their movie roles and synchromystic interactions with other actors and real life C.J. , as Jake Kotze often points out in his mind boggling videos that he makes about such actors and movies at his Vimeo site –
      https://vimeo.com/user2212419
      I guess it’s really the same for all of us on the planet, but it’s just easier to document such strangeness with people in the public eye with their material and birth-dates readily available on social media.
      But you are right about actors who immerse themselves into particular acting roles.
      Look at Heath Leger playing the Joker and Brandon Lee playing the Crow at the time of their unexpected deaths for instance.

      • Rob and Trish says:

        You mention two of the most tragic synchros, Daz. Ledger and Lee.

        • Darren says:

          In my latest post at my blog I mention Emma Watson being born on April 15th, which is the actual day the Titanic sunk and Bill Paxton (who starred in the movie Titanic) passed away the day before Oscar night this year and the TV stations were playing Rolex commercials which featured Bill Paxton in Titanic wearing a Rolex and talking about the Titanic sinking on April 15th.
          Another weird thing is that Emma Watson was offered the role that Emma Stone won the Oscar for in ‘La La Land’ that night.
          You just can’t make stuff like this up if you tried, life is way more stranger than fiction.

          • Rob and Trish says:

            Wow, didn’t know about this stuff with Emma Watson/ titatnic. And you definitely can’t make this stuff up!

    • Darren says:

      You might need to check the SPAM filter again Trish, as another comment of mine just disappeared.

  2. Darren says:

    I had seen the movie ‘The Giver’ when it came out at the cinema at the time and liked it, but I had never read the book.
    I thought it was funny how Meryll Streep starred in that movie and how her and Trump locked horns in real life (although only Trump has real horns 🙂 ) after Trump was voted into power.
    I was only thinking about this movie the other day when I saw the new ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie (which was filmed in my home Australian state of Queensland) starring the actor who played Jonas in ‘The Giver’ (Brenton Thwaites, also from my home state) .
    I saw the new pirates movie after Gordon White at the ‘Rune Soup’ blog told me that there is no better depiction of Magick in modern movies than in the ‘Pirates’ movies.
    I wrote a post about that here –
    https://brizdazz.blogspot.com.au/2017/06/the-magical-significance-of-captain.html
    It’s amazing how actor’s lives entwine in real life events also.
    And I just saw that the two real life actors (Bill Paxton and Glenne Headly) who played Emma Watson’s parents in the new film adaption of the novel ‘The Circle’ (which is based on Apple’s new circular Apple Park complex and the issues of social media and privacy in the modern technological world) have both passed away this year suddenly.
    I wrote a post about that movie as well –
    https://brizdazz.blogspot.com.au/2017/06/emma-watsons-eerie-circle.html
    But I haven’t seen it yet even though it’s on screens in the USA, because it doesn’t start it’s cinema run until July in Australia.
    Maybe I should read the book while I’m waiting for it’s cinema released, as I’ve heard the ending of the book and movie are different?

    • Rob and Trish says:

      Thanks, Daz. Found the other comments in trash. Not sure what happened. Will check out the link!

  3. Darren says:

    I left a reply but like the title of your last post ‘Stuff that mysteriously disappears’ my reply seems to have mysteriously disappeared also.
    I’ll try one more time to post it then I’ll give up.

  4. DJan says:

    I just put a hold on the book at the library and learned that I can watch the movie on Amazon, so I’ll be doing that. Thanks for the review of a book and movie I seemed to have missed! I was probably busy jumping out of airplanes instead. 🙂