The Giver (2014) Film Review – Ezri M

The Giver (2014) Film Review

By Ezri M

The Giver is yet another youthful dystopian story, joining The Hunger Games and Divergent on the ever-growing list. It serves as a metaphor for adolescence – a coming-of-age story where the protagonist learns the truths of the world that cause his innocence and naivety to fade, while adult figures of authority attempt to quash his feelings of rebellion and draw him back to conformity. And it is exactly as it sounds: an extremely similar plot template to every dystopia film ever, which everyone has seen too many times.

However, this is not the fault of the plot. The Giver is based on a novel of the same name, written by Lois Lowry in 1993, which was a trailblazer in dystopian fiction (predating Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth). Therefore, the problem with the film: it was made too late. Timing is everything – and time was not on the side of The Giver. Instead of the innovative story it was obviously meant to be, it seemed more like a replica of the others.

The film follows Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a boy living in a seemingly perfect world, who, upon graduation, is apprenticed to the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Here, Jonas will be taught how terrible the world used to be (including the ‘good’ parts, like love), before the erasure that lead to their current society. The more he learns, the more he realises how mindlessly conditioned the people around him are, and the more he wants to act, to the horror of the elders.

The theme of ‘giving’ is one that weighs heavily on the main characters. The knowledge gained by Jonas from the Giver is not one for the faint hearted – seen when the previous apprentice is unable to cope with the pressure of knowing the past. Though giving is depicted as rather negative, there are also positive connotations of giving the truth: the less time the truth is withheld, the better the reaction.

With a strong supporting cast, including Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, and Katie Holmes (with a cameo from Taylor Swift), the performance and production are solidly good, but the quality is no longer the point, due to the fact that the dystopia has missed its window, as the sub-genre is well along the way to having run its course. 

 

Alone in Berlin | Book Review

 

Berlin, 1940. The city is paralysed by fear. But one man refuses to be scared.

Otto Quangel, an ordinary German living in a shabby apartment block, tries to stay out of trouble under the Nazi rule. But when he discovers his only son has been killed fighting on the front he’s shocked into an extraordinary act of resistance and starts to drop anonymous postcards attacking Hitler across the city. If caught, he will be executed.

The story tells of Otto and Elise’s care and calculation as the cards are methodically dropped throughout Berlin. It also reminds you of the anguish they feel for their son and the fear of being discovered by the Gestapo. The people around them that are also affected, tell their parts of the story and their own deprivation in Hitler’s Berlin.

Soon this silent campaign comes to the attention of ambitious Gestapo (the Nazi police force) Inspector Escherich and a murderous game of cat-and-mouse ensues. Whoever loses, pays with their life.

Alone In Berlin is a Modern Penguin Classic. The story itself is based on the true story of Otto and his wife, Elise Hampel who left postcards around Berlin that condemned Hitler.

It is an unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin. Told through a multiple narrative it shows the hardship the Nazi rule brought to Berlin and how the common people counteracted the gloom. The book is said by many, and I agree, to be one of the most extraordinary and compelling novels written about World War II.

Hans Fallada, whose real name is Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen, was a German writer in the first half of the 20th Century. He is known for novels such as Little Man, What Now? and Every Man Dies Alone.

I would recommend this book to anyone over the age of 14. It is a book that is driven by suspense and will grip you until the very end. Happy Reading!

“What do you think will happen to our cards?” asks Anna.

“People will feel alarmed when they see them lying there and only read the first few words. Everyone’s frightened nowadays.”

“That’s true,” she says, “Everybody is…”

By Florence G

A Monster Calls – Film & Book Review

12:07. There’s a monster at Conor’s window, it’s not the one from his nightmare but it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

A Monster Calls follows the life of Conor O’Malley; a boy torn between home life, school life and his horrific grandmother. His mother’s diagnosis with cancer has left him with an internal battle that he doesn’t EVER want to confront. But as his mother’s health declines, Conor finds himself drifting away from everyone around him and his constant nightmares get worse.

And that is when the monster comes, in the form of a huge yew tree. The monster tells Conor three stories from the past and in return he wants Conor to tell him a fourth story. He wants Conor to tell him the truth, Conor’s truth.

A Monster Calls is a heart-wrenching story that left me and many others in tears. Although it is at times a dark, mournful book, it also has some hilarious and jaw dropping moments.

It was first published in 2011 by the author Patrick Ness (known, as well as many others, for his series ‘Chaos Walking’). The plot itself was passed on to Patrick by the renowned author Siobhan Dowd (author of books such as ‘The London Eye Mystery’) after she sadly passed away from breast cancer. Patrick Ness has taken on the story and created an outstanding novel that shines with compassion and understanding.

What links this book to ‘Giving’?

Well, the monster gives Conor everything he could wish for; hope, love, freedom and mixed in with all of that, the ability to face the truth and move on.  The monster gives Conor his freedom back.

A Monster Calls is also a film, which came out in late 2016. It features Academy Award Nominees Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones as well as Liam Neeson as the voice of the monster. Conor is played by a relative newcomer called Lewis Macdougall, who does a fabulous job. The film left me full of hope and sadness leaving with a tear stained face!

I hope that you pick up this book. It is a thoroughly thrilling and powerful read. Although it is suitable for readers in year 5, I recommend this book to anyone, of any age.

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” -Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls.

By Florence

The Night Circus | Book Review

The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it… It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Two magicians of indefinite, but certainly magically, long lifespan – one a public performer named Prospero the Enchanter, aka Hector Bowen; the other known only as ‘the man in the grey suit’ or ‘Mr. A. H—’ – are engaged in a profound rivalry, playing out over many generations by appointed pupils. In the late 19th century, Bowen elects his six-year-old daughter Celia, while his counterpart chooses a nameless nine-year-old orphan who will be called Marco Alisdair. These two are bound into a lifelong challenge, the rules and limits of which are never fully explained to them; and for years they do not know their opponents.

There is one thing the opponents do know, they must choose a venue for their part of the game to take place. And that is The Night Circus, also known as ‘Le Cirque des Reves’ the Night Circus is a place of magic and imagination. All the tents are black and white, all the performers wear black and white; yet nothing is the same. Each tent transports you to somewhere else and each is more confounding than the last. It is as magical as its characters and will bind you to it’s world forever; all its performers have something to hide.

The Night Circus is a dazzling and enchanting novel that you will not easily forget and nor should because it is truly amazing.

The book was first published in 2011 by Erin Morgenstern; it was Erin Morgenstern’s first big hit as a writer and she herself describes her writing as ‘a fairy-tale in one way or another’.

The only response that really sums up the novel is ‘wow’. It is so rich in description and intrigue, making you hunger for every word and where the book will take you next. It is a breathtaking feat of imagination that creates a strikingly beautiful world, in spite of its occasional darkness.

I recommend this book for anyone over the age of 12, it is a book for everyone and anyone; it will leave you spellbound!

“But I’m not special”, Bailey says, “not the way they are. I’m not anyone important.” “I know”, Celia said, “you are not destined or chosen. I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it is not true. You are in the right place, at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that is enough.” -Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus.

By Florence