Monday, November 16, 2009

The Prisoner--an fascinating, Orwellian concept

"The Prisoner," an AMC miniseries, offers a very Orwellian tale about an intelligence agent, who once monitored close circuit video feed of public places in search of significant patterns. After he angrily resigns (over what the viewer does not yet know, and the main character has apparently forgotten), he wakes up in a desert, near a village from which he cannot escape. The village has almost every amenity and some idiosyncracies, much like our own world, and nearly everyone has accepted it, unquestioningly. It has become their reality.

'Six,' whose name was Michael, longs for his old life and refuses to live under the silent, ostensibily beneficent tyranny of the man called Two. Six, who rebels against his new name, often shouts Claire Wolfe's mantra "I am not a number!"

The Village is a pure distillation of our more heterogenous world. There is no genuine escape in the closely monitored residential, leisure, or commerical spaces, since there is no privacy. And until Six arrives, there is no fraternity of underground resistance, where rebels can find kindred spirits. The whole tale points to the fact that, even as we have creature comforts, we are not truly free. We are monitored continuously, in ways we aren't even aware of. Everything comes at a price, and most often that price involves our liberty. But we knew this. What's more fascinating is that "The Prisoner" presents a trenchant vision of society that actually calls into question (let's face it, not just the Western World's but...) America's current definition of freedom. Is it still the same as it was in 1776? Or has our concept of freedom significantly altered in response to external controls and personal desires? Have we willingly enslaved ourselves? And an even more interesting question to ask: why show a movie like this now, at this specific moment?

See various explanatory trailers here:

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