Equilibrium is a dystopian science fiction film centered on John Preston, a high ranking “Grammaton Cleric.” After a third World War leaves much of the world in ruins, a new drug is created that removes emotions. Libria, a new totalitarian state sits walled against the “Nether.” The Grammaton Clerics are tasked with the removal and destruction of anything deemed to cause emotion and anyone refusing to take the drug. The world is now grey and uniform, with no music, art, or literature. The movie is visually dramatic in its views of emotion. The city is grey and dim, with little thought to comfort or originality. In the opening scene the Mona Lisa is burned along with other items deemed to provoke emotional response.
A resistance movement exists, but needless to say, they need someone like Preston to help. As he discovers emotions, viewers are shown the perils of totalitarian rule, including corruption and hypocrisy. Bearing resemblance to Nazi Germany in the violent manner of its disposal of “sense offenders,” its distant and charismatic leader “Father,” and the Gestapo-like Grammaton Clerics, the movie takes these real life examples to the extreme, where even emotions are regulated and controlled. The ability to feel is basic human nature, and when it is taken away, it makes us into something other than humans. The movie doesn’t allow it to be that simple though. The point is made that emotions can get in the way, cause trouble, and that sometimes they must indeed be set aside in order to aid society. Preston finds that emotions are at times a hindrance and a danger when confronting a society that is based around detecting and removing emotion.
As a whole, societal change is produced by a minority – through extreme measures – convincing the majority. Or at least that is the case made here. If totalitarianism is allowed to gain control of the world, then extremism (and often violent extremism at that) must be utilized in order to sway the population. When examining this method it seems crude and doesn’t reflect the same ideals of the non-violence movements like those of Gandhi and MLK Jr. This is partially done for action sequences, but it also seems to indicate that the world could get to a point when it is absolutely necessary. Society has left those with the “right” answer no other alternative.
This movie examines what could happen if we allowed our fear and desire for protection give enough power to someone who desired to oppress us. It argues for a flawed system where people are free to choose for themselves. This means that along with the ability to love and feel happiness, we are also subject to rage, greed, and jealousy. As Preston is exposed to emotions and the danger that brings, he must make new sacrifices. The price for freedom and the ability to experience the full emotional spectrum is the blood of those that would stand in the way and the lack of control and order brought on by docility.