Genre: Sci-Fi Drama and Short Running Time: 25 min.
Release Date: May 29th, 2009 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Chandler Tuttle Actors: James Cosmo, Julie Hagerty, Armie Hammer, Patricia Clarkson, Tammy Bruce, James Burns, Becky King
y the year 2081, everyone is finally equal. They aren’t only equal in the eyes of God or the law; thanks to the Handicapper General and the 211th – 213th Amendments to the Constitution, everyone is literally forced into sameness. The strong wear weights, beautiful people wear masks, and intelligent people wear earpieces to distract them from using their superior brains. Even the news reporter has a prohibitive stutter. It is the golden age of equality.
But George (James Cosmo) and his dimwitted wife Hazel (Julie Hagerty) aren’t entirely content. He can’t live life to its fullest with his handicaps, yet she wouldn’t be comfortable living with a spouse more mentally capable than herself. Neither one can fully remember their son, suspected anarchist Harrison Bergeron (Armie Hammer), who was arrested six years ago for the blatant removal of his handicaps in a public place (among other crimes of equality). An “abomination of the able,” he’s a genius and an athlete (considered to be extremely dangerous), now recently escaped from prison, roaming as a fugitive in D.C. – and currently being broadcast on television in a daring plea for a revolution.
“What are you thinking about?” “I don’t know.” The basic plot, adapted by Chandler Tuttle (who also directed and edited) from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s short story, is sensational, serving as a warning and as pitch-black satire. The notion of equality taken to hyperbolic extremes is certainly worthy of cinematic translation, as are the various manifestations of crushing governmental control. True freedom requires disparity. Here, however, there are some inconsistencies (such as determining how exactly to make a ballerina, encumbered as she might be with weights chained around her body, perfectly equivalent to a musician). But the use of slow-motion, classical music (featuring the Czeck Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and a cello solo), limited dialogue, and highly contrasting juxtapositions give this brief yet sharply filmed project an admirable level of artistry. The premise is terribly bleak, but Bergeron’s plight manages to be momentarily hopeful, funny, and provocative as well.
– Mike Massie