One of the most bleak films ever produced has a shining ray of light at its core
Friday, Jul 23rd, 2010
Warning: This contains spoilers for those who have not yet seen the movie or read the book!
The Road, directed by John Hillcoat based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, is an extremely powerful film because it explores the fundamental human condition and the basic struggle between good and evil.
The imagery in the movie provides the perfect backdrop for a stunning exploration of the greatest threat to our civilization – barbarism.
The near future post-apocalyptic landscape serves as a physical embodiment of the spiritual decline of humanity we see unfolding all around us today.
To emphasize this theme and to achieve a disturbing realism, the film makers used images and video from events in recent history including billowing smoke from the aftermath of 9/11 and the ruined landscapes of New Orleans after Katrina. Thus, although the viewer will not consciously be aware of it, they will already be familiar with the devastation they see on the screen.
The boy in the film represents innate goodness, the ultimate truth if you will. He has never known an existence other than the dangerous and savage waste land that exists before his eyes, yet he has a deeply held desire to help his fellow man, in the shape of whomever he comes into contact with as his journey unfolds.
The doting father character strives to protect his son from his own altruism, which is pitted in a struggle against a total degradation of empathy and morality in the world he is born into.
This is never more evident in the film than when the father and son’s meager shopping cart of supplies is stolen by a scavenger. They catch up to the thief and the father takes back the cart, along with everything else that the man has, including his clothes. Despite the scavenger’s wrongdoing, the boy argues with his father that it is not right to leave him to freeze to death, it is not something “the good guys” would do. Eventually the boy’s persistence with his father pays off as they turn back and leave the man’s clothes for him to find, with a can of food. This theme is revisited several times.
The father is intent on passing on to his son what he refers to as “the fire” he is carrying inside. The soul, the spirit, the will to survive, creation itself, a greater enlightenment and understanding – call it what you will, it’s desperate fight against darkness and dehumanization, reflected in the cannibal savages, is the central theme of the film.
A common theme in dystopian fiction is the break down or the deliberate destruction of the family. This is because the function of the family is a microcosm of human civilization itself. The virtues of the family – trust, loyalty, togetherness, love – are at the core of the human condition, in constant conflict with suspicion, jealousy, selfishness, and hate.
In The Road, the family is devastated in the opening scenes by the suicide of the mother. The father’s slow prolonged illness and eventual death also mirrors that of society. In the end, however, there is hope, as the boy, still carrying the fire, is adopted by another family – a father, mother, boy, girl and a dog.
The boy’s adopted family represent civilization itself, and the message is clear – we are all interconnected and if we are to survive and progress as a species we must recognize our social responsibility to love one another and protect ourselves from the barbarians that threaten our survival. Only love can save us from such a barren desolate future.
Watch Alex Jones’ review of The Road and how the movie’s themes tie into the struggle against the New World Order being implemented around us: