Monday, June 13, 2011

Ishiguro

I just watched Never Let Me Go last night, a science fiction movie based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is the second movie I've seen based on his novels. The first was The Remains of the Day. The Remains of the Day features Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson as household servants in post-war England. They work "in service" and take great pride in their work. In "Never Let Me Go," there's a different kind of class system (that would spoil the movie to reveal, so I'll just leave it at that). In this film, which takes place in England between the 1970s and 1990s, the underclass also take pride in their roles and do not (for the most part) challenge the fairness or morality of the system or their places in it. Both are excellent films and in both the characters' willingness (and sometimes eagerness) to accept their positions is palpable and disturbing.

In the discussions on the IMDB page for Never Let Me Go, several people criticized the movie for not explaining what mind-control mechanisms or whatnot are used to keep the underclass in their designated places. These comments explain why I dislike most science fiction and why I like this one so much. In this film, the system is in place, the characters are living in the middle of it, and the audience comes into the middle of it, watching characters who have been born into it and accepted it. The point is to make the viewer ask why and to feel it viscerally.

Ishiguro was born in Japan and raised in England from age 6. Both movies are very English in the cultures they portray and in the issues they raise. He's been nominated for the Man Booker Prize four times and won once. It's time I take a break from my non-fiction reading and dig into some Ishiguro.

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