Thursday, August 26, 2010

What book am I?

I saw a DVD of the film 'The Book of Eli' last night. It got me wondering 'What book am I?"

Having just recently seen John Hillcots 'The Road' (2009) the stark post atomic Apocalypse ascetics of 'The Book of Eli" were vaguely familiar. As was the brutality of the human experience eking out a subsistence living in a world where it had all been stripped away.

What I found challenging was the way the main character (played by Denzil Washington) protected and held on to a book. 'The last remaining 'King James version of the bible. AS a response to the war (the flash as it was referred to) all the bibles had been burned but one had survived. Eli felt the voice tell him to guard the book, read the book and take it to a community out west where it would be valued. the film chronicles the last part of his journey and possibly the biggest challenges to his mission.

the book is seen by the villain as a weapon, a book of power by which he could subjugate and oppress the few remaining human communities and rule over them. But Eli is sure the book is not for them.

In the end in a very Fahrenheit 451 way the book is lost to Eli but we discover that the book was Eli (good play on words in the title) and Eli is able to deliver the book in a way that was reminiscent of the pre-printing press scriptorium, to a community that is preserving all the wisdom and treasures of the world before.

he has read the book each day and it has become so much part of him. He is a navigators dream, he has committed it all to memory... However there is one telling line in the whole movie that for me cut to the quick (even more than Eli's razor sharp machete). AS he sums up the book to his illiterate companion in the words of Jesus golden rule "Do unto other as you would have them do unto you" he reflects "I've spent so much time protecting the book and should have spent more time living it out."

In the end (and sorry if this ruins the movie for you) the book ends up on a shelf amidst the other religious books of wisdom (the Talmud etc) sitting on a shelf. Its been kept safe but...

The question for me is 'What book are you?" and how do you embody that book? Does it sit on my shelf amidst all the other volumes. Does it reside inside my head, do I use it as a weapon or do I spend my time living it out.

1 comment:

  1. The 'storytelling' motif is a common theme in post-apocalyptic fiction - Miller's novel 'A Canticle for Liebowitz' and Straczynski's 'Jeremiah' TV show (esp. the second season) both do this.