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On the Release of Death


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On the Release of Death

Posted March 2nd, 2016 at 9:21 PM by Min-seo
Updated March 2nd, 2016 at 9:26 PM by Min-seo

MOVIE SPOILERS ABOUND

So let me preface this with... I Love Movies


So one of my favorite movies is one called Never Let Me Go based on a novel by Japanese-British author Kazuo Ishiguro. To give some backstory before I go into philosophical rants and interpretations and analysis of the story I will give a synopsis of the movie. The story is a science-fiction dystopian (although I suppose that depends on your point of view) near-ish future in the United Kingdom.

The story begins with a group of children in a boarding school in the United Kingdom called Hailsham. The viewer quickly learns that the children have only ever known this place (where they are educated, do art, and all the other things people do in schools) and they are not allowed to leave the boarding school. The main character Kathy develops a crush on the main male lead Tommy. Ruth (Kathy's friend) takes interesting in Tommy and dates him because she doesn't want Kathy and Tommy to date one another. Kathy's class is told by one of the newest teachers to the building the truly horrifying truth of their lives. Everyone in Hailsham has been cloned from people in the outside world (and the cloning process makes children which then need to grow up) and that when they turn 16 they will have their organs harvested (in a process called a "donation") and most of the clones die by their third donation. The teacher is quickly fired but the children are very much now aware of what their future holds.


The story fast forwards into the future where the trio is now 16 years old and have been taken out of Hailsham and move to a place called the Cottages a poorly maintained group of shacks that house clones (and here we learn there are more of these boarding schools besides Hailsham). Ruth and Tommy's relationship is tumultuous and Kathy acts as the mediator. Whilst in the Cottages Kathy explores her sexuality and her personhood trying to discover who she really is. She looks at porn magazines to see if she can find who she is cloned from (I'll get to later why she was looking in porn magazines). We learn the former students that live in the Cottages are allowed to leave (they wear bands on their arms so they can be tracked wherever they go and they must check in at the Cottages every night) and travel around. So for the first time in their lives the trip and experience restaurants and the general outside world. They learn from a couple at the Cottages that supposedly Hailsham students can get a deferral on their donations if they can prove that they are truly in love.

After being in the Cottages for a while the trio takes a trip to a beach where they finally discuss what they are, where they come from, and what might happen to them in the future. We learn from Ruth that they "...are modelled on trash." What Ruth means by this is that the people who are cloned from "undesirables" in society such as prostitutes, drug addicts, etc. As the time for their first donations comes closer and closer Kathy talks to one of the men who work at the Cottages about becoming a Carer. The job of a Carer is to watch over other clones and care for them after their donations. Carers ironically get to defer their donations until they stop being Carers. After this the trio splits up and we do see Kathy caring for people after their organs are removed.


While Kathy is taking care of one of her carees she sees Ruth at the same hospital. They sit down and discuss the past and what's happened. Ruth has already had one donation and it went terribly. Ruth is certain that her next donation will be her last so she tries to make amends for the past and assist Kathy and Tommy's relationship. Ruth finds out where Tommy is and also tells Kathy where to find Madame (the former headmaster of Hailsham). Tommy we learn is in much better straights than Ruth despite having already done three donations. After going out as a trio one last time Ruth returns to the hospital and gives her second donation and dies in the process. Tommy and Kathy then spend the remaining time together and kindle something of a relationship (one filled with knowing that Tommy will inevitably die soon).

The (now) duo go out seeking Madame and they learn that at Hailsham their art was collected to prove to the outside world that these were in fact real people just like any non-cloned humans. The project however failed and the general public did not stop the process and now schools like Hailsham (who tried to give the clones some semblance of a normal life) are closed and the schools are now much closer to farms just raising clones to be slaughtered for their organs. They also are told that there is no way for Tommy to defer his donations. We then end the movie with Tommy going in for his fourth donation and dying from it. Kathy then resigns from her Carer position (presumably having nothing to live for anymore) and proceeds to start her donations when the story ends.


This movie really got my mind going on the idea of death (and death with a very clear specific purpose in mind). One interesting quirk of the characters across the board is that they never try to physically fight against the system they simply try to live their lives as best as they possibly can while waiting as long as possible to donate their organs. Essentially all the characters understand that they will be killed but they are arguably peaceful about it.

I tried to empathize with the characters and I came to the realization that this sad life might not be as terribly sad as it might appear. I am in no rush to end my own life but living a life with a very clear end in sight adds what I would imagine some sort of relief. The characters never worry about the mundane and pointless aspects many of us worry about. In the simplest terms they are most worried about fulfilling themselves as much as possible before they will inevitably die. I can see some sort of peace and beauty in a life such as that. Additionally they know what they are being killed for, they are being killed to give their organs to "real" people. Thusly they are fully aware that their sacrifices as unfair as they are, are at least being used for the betterment of somebody.

There is certainly a level of pacifism in humanity when faced with an unenviable problem that will eventually kill them. Too call back to the past there weren't many rebellions in concentration camps during the Holocaust of WWII. There was just a level of broken spritedness that pacified entire camp populations. I feel like in the same way the main characters are just trying to etch out as much as they can from their meager lives before they will inevitably die.

The philosophy of this aspect of the movie calls back to Albert Camus and one of his deepest questions (and indeed the only one he thought worthy of philosophical thought). Why shouldn't we commit suicide? We have the freedom to realize that our lives are a cage and that we have no ability to escape the inevitable aspect of our own mortality. Life is pointless, our efforts futile, ourselves forgotten, and that everything will eventually come to an end one way or another for the whole of humanity. Essentially it is important that we be happy in the futility of our own lives. We should acknowledge the absurdity of living a life yet derive the pleasure from the idea that we must create meaning out of it even if there is truly nothing worth living for (allow me to remind anyone out there that Camus did not advocate suicide thinking it only negated, and did not solve, the problem). Camus very much promoted ordinary life, and thought that the living of a life and the simple things that we take for granted are what really matter.

However if we assume that our lives do have a purpose because some clear proposed higher power (as in the case of this movie the "real" people). Then does it not make sense just to accept our fate and enjoy our lives as happily as we possibly can? Could one not find enough joy for an entire lifetime in a mere 26 or so years? We live because we expect more to happen that might make sense of everything, ease pain, or solve problems. When you make those points moot by setting a clear end in sight then perhaps it is just simply best to pacify yourself, find as much meaning outside of your inevitable end, and be happy with what you have until nothing remains.
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