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Equilibrium

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Common elementsEdit

“Ultraviolet” gave writer/director Kurt Wimmer the opportunity to revisit some ideas he had explored in his 2002 film “Equilibrium” which starred Christian Bale. Common ideas include:

  • A single hero fights against a dystopian, totalitarian government in the near future.
  • The ruling government came to power because of a crisis such as war or disease.
  • The ruling government is a “New World Order” world government that is implied to have attained world domination. Any resistence is overwhelmed by the state.
  • The ruling government operates using authoritarianism and totalitarianism.
  • There are high living standards for the population that obey the government.
  • Huge numbers of soldiers wear motorcycle helmets or gas masks which make them appear faceless.
  • The faceless soldiers always wear black uniforms and use rifles for their primary weapons.
  • The hero wears a completely white outfit during the climax of the film, though Violet’s white outfit later becomes red after her hands are cut and bleeding.
  • The hero wears a completely black outfit in several gunfights.
  • The primary weapons of the named characters are handguns and swords.
  • The hero takes down an entire state through violence, working in conjunction with a marginalized group of rebels.
  • The villain’s architecture is often in the form of, or suggestive of, a cross.
  • The hero was separated from their spouse.
  • The hero often leaves enemy bodies arranged in aesthetically pleasing geometric shapes.
  • The hero uses Gun Kata, a fictional martial art style developed by Wimmer.
  • The hero must bluff their way through an extremely elaborate testing process in an all white room.
  • The primary villain attempts to talk the hero out of killing him by claiming to be unarmed; hero decides to kill them anyway. The villian is then revealed to be armed.
  • The hero’s primary opponent is a patriarchal dictator who is ultimately revealed to be doing the very thing he seeks to outlaw.
  • The thing the villain seeks to outlaw is derived from a basic part of human nature. Emotions in “Equilibrium” and a disease in “UltraViolet”.
  • The hero is a member of an elite military unit.
  • The hero is such a deadly combatant that they dispatch most of their opponents almost instantly. The only character able to put up a fight against the hero lasting more than a couple seconds is the main villain, which is somewhat unexpected because the main villain is presented as a bureaucratic administrator rather than a soldier.
  • The muzzle flash on Violet’s guns resemble a Biohazard logo. In “Equilibrium”, Preston’s guns emit the cleric’s logo.

TetragrammatonEdit

The 4 Hebrew letters are often collectively called the “Tetragrammaton” (from the Greek polytonic, meaning “four-letter word. They are often transliterated as “YHWH”, “JHWH”, “YHVH” or “JHVH”, pronounced “Yahweh” (“Jehovah”), which is a vocalization of the name of God in the Bible.

ReferencesEdit

“Equilibrium” contains many references to similar works of dystopian fiction, most notably Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”, George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, Ira Levin’s “This Perfect Day”, Ray Bradbury’s “‘Fahrenheit 451”, and George Lucas’s “THX 1138”. However, unlike protagonists such as Winston Smith of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, John Preston emerges triumphant, overthrowing Father and bringing Tetragrammaton rule to an end.

Dystopian FictionEdit

Like “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, “The Matrix”, and “Brave New World”, “Equilibrium” takes place in the near future following a catastrophic war. “Nineteen Eighty-Four” imagines worldwide revolutions and civil wars in the aftermath of the Second World War, which ultimately lead to the creation of three equally powerful hyperstates and the nightmare society of the novel. “The Matrix” takes place after a devastating war with the machine state of Zero One. The society of “Brave New World” is closest to that of “Equilibrium” - both imagine devastating wars in the near future, the apocalyptic results of which oblige world leaders to sweep away the past and create a new society in which people live. In “Brave New World”, the World Controllers eliminate war by uniting the planet as 1 nation-state, The World State. In “Equilibrium”, the Tetragrammaton Council eliminates war by forcibly suppressing emotions. The existence of other states in “Equilibrium” is a matter of debate. In the world of “the Matrix”, the entire world is in darkness (see Operation Dark Storm) and ruins after the war, except for the machine city, where humans are kept in pods to be used as a power source. The world of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is divided into the 3 hyperstates of Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia, along with a disputed zone used as a battlefield. Apart from the divide between the city of Libria and The Nethers, “Equilibrium” never reveals whether there are other states in the world. A globe (with distorted tectonic plates) in Vice Council DuPont’s office suggests that Libria encompasses the entire planet, but this suspicion is neither confirmed nor denied.

The 4 works also share similarities in their portrayal of the past. In “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, the Ingsoc government teaches a severely distorted version of history, and keeps changing this version to fit in with ongoing events, so that the government can never be wrong. However, some members of the government are aware of actual historical events, but it can never be established just how distorted their version of events is. In “The Matrix”, humans are told the world is in the year 1999 instead of the real time (which is some time after 2199). In “Brave New World”, museums and monuments to the past are destroyed, and the World Controllers deliberately condition people to not ask about the past. The only people with any real knowledge of history are the 10 World Controllers, who keep their knowledge from others.

A major difference with “1984” is that the propaganda broadcast is historically accurate and Father admits that the suppression of emotions is required to maintain social stability. Futhermore, captured contraband art is not destroyed until it has been confirmed as real. Most of the contraband is taken to Cleric headquarters for analysis. Even when contraband is destroyed during a raid, the Clerics determine the contraband’s authenticity before the destruction. This is the opposite of “1984” where the: Ministry of Love, Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Plenty, and Ministry of Truth use deception to control the Proles and evidence is destroyed to obscure the past.

In terms of the protagonists, the “Equilibrium’s” cleric John Preston is most similar to “Fahrenheit 451’s” fireman Guy Montag who both seek out and destroy works of art and literature through incineration. Also, the name of the character of Mary O’Brien may be a reference to the O’Brien in “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, as both characters provide guidance for the main character, although in different ways.

Drug useEdit

The use of sedatives to keep society calm and placated is a central theme in “Equilibrium”, “Brave New World”, “This Perfect Day” and “THX 1138”. In “Brave New World”, citizens take regular doses of the drug “Soma”, taken in tablet form, which makes users sedate and mindlessly happy. Similarly, in “This Perfect Day”, the members of society undergo regular injected “treatments” which keep them docile, obedient, and emotionally sedated. Soma was the inspiration for both “THX 1138”‘s emotion-suppressing pills and “Equilibrium’s” “Prozium” (a portmanteau of Prozac and Valium), an injected drug which serves the same purpose. The 2005 film “Serenity” revolved around a failed government attempt to “improve” people’s lives using a drug called “Pax”.

ProziumEdit

Prozium is a fictional liquid drug which suppresses strong emotions, creating a sedate and conformist society. The loss of emotions is a heavy price, but it is considered to be one paid gladly in exchange for the elimination of war and crime. Librium is another drug with relaxant effects, often used to treat severe alcohol or drug withdrawal. Prozium was to be originally called Librium (thus the nation of Libria), this was changed to Prozium when it was discovered that Librium was already an existing drug.

Living standardEdit

The standard of living is relatively similar in “Brave New World”, “This Perfect Day”, and “Equilibrium”. Whilst the characters of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” live squalid, diseased and materially deprived lives, the citizens of “Brave New World”, “This Perfect Day” and “Equilibrium” enjoy clean, comfortable lives with plenty of everything. However, those citizens living outside of the city, in the ruined cities of “The Nethers”, seem to live much harsher lives than the inhabitants of Libria. A distinction is drawn in psychological terms; those living in Libria indeed have plenty of everything, but their homes, clothes, possessions, and lifestyles are inevitably monotone and dull. Those living in The Nethers live harsher lives, but have access to a wide range of artifacts from the old society. This also parallels “Brave New World”, as the reservations that the American Indians live on are also much harsher, but more spiritually rich, as well as “This Perfect Day”, as the islands that the incurables live on are culturally rich and diverse in other important ways. There are however some similarities between the population of “The Nethers” and the “Proles” of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

Citizens of Equilibrium seem to be allowed to marry and raise children, although this would contradict the notion of a society without feelings. John Preston has a wife, dead at the time the film begins, and two children who apparently live with him full time. Kurt Wimmer’s stance is that Libria, as seen in the film, is undergoing a transition period to a completely emotionless society, and thus many elements of the pre-apocalyptic society, such as marriage and families, still remain.

SurveillanceEdit

The surveillance society of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is replicated in the film. The two-way telescreens of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” are a feature of Libria (although it is not known whether every telescreen is two-way, or only the screen used to ensnare Preston in the government headquarters; furthermore, it’s possible that none of the screens are two-way. DuPont could simply have pre-recorded the dialogue shown to Preston, comfortable in the knowledge that the former Cleric would be captured). Another option is that the screen operated like videotelephony and there was a web camera in the interrogation room.

In both stories, the telescreens serve to broadcast propaganda, but those of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” also allow the thought-police to watch people at leisure. Another difference is in the content of the telescreen broadcasts: the screens of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” broadcast news reports on the endless war, lists of condemned criminals, and falsified historical information, while those of “Equilibrium” display genuine historical information and explanations of Tetragrammaton doctrine read by Father.

Surveillance is also carried out by the numerous stormtroopers spread throughout the city. During the scene where Father first introduces Prozium, a crowd of Librians can be seen passing by several stationed stormtroopers on the street. Some stormtroopers are accompanied by a young cleric-trainee, who occasionally notifies them of potential sense-offenders walking amongst the crowd.

Librians can also report any acts of sense-offense they have seen, as shown by Preston’s son’s decision to report his classmate. This effectively forms a city-wide Neighborhood Watch-like surveillance system that can be cruelly effective.

Curiously, however, there seems to be no system in place to monitor whether or not people take their Prozium, as the protagonist and his son have no trouble when they decide not to do so. This might just be true of Grammaton Clerics and their families, who are perhaps considered above suspiscion, but judging by the way John Preston’s wife is incinerated for “Sense Crimes” this is not, perhaps, a logical conclusion.

Class systemEdit

“Equilibrium” appears to borrow “Brave New World”‘s theme of a strict class structure. In “Brave New World”, citizens of different classes are distinguished by the color of their clothes, a theme which appears in “Equilibrium”. A scene of Librian citizens watching Father on a telescreen clearly shows the watchers divided into rows according to the color and quality of their clothes.

FatherEdit

Contrary to popular belief, the figure of Father was not intended as a direct reference to “Nineteen Eighty-Four”‘s Big Brother. Director Kurt Wimmer disputes this notion in the DVD commentary of “Equilibrium”, stating that the character of Father is a reference to religious themes that resonate throughout the film. A closer match to the intent of “Equilibrium” is the manner in which the founders of Christ, Karl Marx, Wood, and Wei are foci of worship-like activity in Levin’s “This Perfect Day”.

Father is not shown as a “Big Brother” type leader who is Libria’s protector. Rather he is Libria’s leader who educates the population and reminds the people that Libria’s social stability is the result of their devotion to maintaining a superior moral standard.

Fighting StyleEdit

The film’s fight sequences have been described as very similar to The Matrix series although Equilibrium uses no wire work, virtually no slow motion, and does not use the bullet time effect from “The Matrix”. However, there are strong stylistic similarities between, for example, the lobby scene in “The Matrix” and the third-last of the battles in Equilibrium.

It is also interesting to note the quick movement, martial arts similarities between the fight style of Equilibrium and “One Tough Bastard” (1995), a movie that Wimmer filmed about half of.

Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism regimesEdit

Totalitarianism is an extreme version of authoritarianism. Authoritarianism primarily differs from totalitarianism in that social and economic institutions exist that are not under governmental control. Building on the work of Yale political scientist Juan Linz, Paul C. Sondrol of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has examined the characteristics of authoritarian and totalitarian dictators.

Sondrol argues that while both authoritarianism and totalitarianism are forms of autocracy, they differ in “key dichotomies”.

  • Unlike their bland and generally unpopular authoritarian brethren, totalitarian dictators develop a charismatic “cult of personality” and a mass-based, pseudo-democratic interdependence with their followers via the conscious manipulation of a prophetic image.
  • Concomitant role conceptions differentiate totalitarians from authoritarians. Authoritarians view themselves as individual beings largely content to control, and often maintain, the status quo. Totalitarian self-conceptions are largely centered on teleology. The tyrant is less a person than an indispensable “function” to guide and reshape the universe.
  • Consequently, the utilisation of power for personal aggrandizement is more evident among authoritarians than totalitarians. Lacking the binding appeal of ideology, authoritarians support their rule by a mixture of instilling fear and granting rewards to loyal collaborators, engendering a kleptocracy.

The term “Authoritarianism” denotes a state in which the single power holder, an individual “dictator”, a committee or a military dictatorship/junta or an otherwise group of political elite, monopolizes political power. However, a totalitarian regime attempts to control virtually all aspects of the social life, including the economy, education, art, science, private life, and morals of citizens. “The officially proclaimed ideology penetrates into the deepest reaches of societal structure and the totalitarian government seeks to completely control the thoughts and actions of its citizens.”

Authoritarianism primarily differs from totalitarianism in that social and economic institutions exist that are not under governmental control.

Compared to totalitarianism, “the authoritarian state still maintains a certain distinction between state and society. It is only concerned with political power and as long as that is not contested it gives society a certain degree of liberty. Totalitarianism, on the other hand, invades private life and asphyxiates it.” Another distinction is that “authoritarianism is not animated by utopian ideals in the way totalitarianism is. It does not attempt to change the world and human nature.” Carl Joachim Friedrich writes that “a totalism ideology, a party reinforced by a secret police, and monopoly control of, industrial mass society” are the 3 features of totalitarian regimes that distinguish them from other autocracies.

Thus, compared to totalitarian systems, authoritarian systems may also leave a larger sphere for the private sphere, lack a guiding ideology, tolerate some cultural pluralism in social organization, lack the power to mobilize the whole population in pursuit of national goals, and exercise their power within relatively predictable limits.

According to Soviet writer Fazil Iskander, “Under the totalitarian regime, it was as if you were forced to live in the same room with an insanely violent man.”

ChartEdit

Totalitarianism Authoritarianism
Charisma High Low
Role conception Leader as function Leader as individual
Ends of power Public Private
Political corruption Low High
Official ideology Yes No
Limited pluralism (political philosophy) No Yes
Legitimacy Yes No

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