A couple weeks ago my wife and I had one of our infrequent 'Dinner and a Movie' dates. We had both read Divergent and really wanted to see how the movie stacked up. So after getting the sitter and one failed attempt at getting tickets at one theater, we were finally able to get in. I loved it. I may have actually loved the movie as much as I loved the book. This is pretty impressive since I generally reside within the camp that the book is always better.
For those who have not read the book or seen the movie here is the general story: Humans have found a way to kill off most of the population and a remaining group of humans live within the city of Chicago. To preserve humanity, every adult belongs to a faction that exemplifies a certain trait. Everyone within a certain faction abides by the rules and guidelines of that faction. For example: Abegnation believes in serving others so their rules include such things as doing everything for others, wearing boring grey clothing and eating bland foods. Dauntless on the other hand idealizes bravery so everyone is dressed in black and engage in thrill seeking activities while being the city's protectors.
Each youth is tested to see which faction is best for them and then given an opportunity to join the faction of their choice. Beatrice/Tris is our heroine who has reached the age of choosing. Tris quickly realizes she is different and that she embodies more than one faction. Thus ensues a personal struggle set amidst a time when the factions themselves are struggling under the weight of the system.
The movie has lots of conflict (inner, interpersonal and political), action and romance. So why do I love this movie? Here is why:
1) Factions = cliques. The primary audience of the book is teens and more likely female teens. The faction system, I believe, is a great portrayal of modern teen culture. Cliques abound within schools and once you are within that group you are trapped. You are then bound by the norms and expectation of that group, whether its band geek, cheerleader, nerd, or athlete. Those tight bonds from elementary school may dissolve simply because you now have a new social group. Faction/clique becomes your group and you are discouraged from associating with multiple groups.
In the movie you even have a group called the Factionless or those who have been kicked out of their factions. They are seen as homeless and wandering. They are only provided care by the Abegnation faction who feel it is their obligation to serve all. How many lone teens do we see who fall out of their man groups only to wander in the 'dead man's land?
2) Four. Four is Tris's love interest and just an overall cool guy. He's smart, strong and can kick butt. On the outside, Four is a poster boy for the Dauntless faction. But he also exemplifies the truth about all of us: we want to be more than just one thing. Four has tattoes of each of the factions because he wants to be more than just brave. He wants to be selfless (Abegnation), honest (Candor), intelligent (Erudite), and kind (Amity). He realizes he needs to be all of these to be whole.
We see in the movie that when you try to become just one thing, that thing, no matter how good, can easily become corrupted. Honesty is something we all can see as necessary in society and something to be held up. But what happens when honesty turns to brutal truth with no concern for compassion. And then that truth is not tempered with knowledge so that the 'truth' may not be what is really true?
3) Fear. The movie does a great job of handling fear. In Dauntless, each person has to confront their deepest fears. Some can. Some cannot and are overcome. The Dauntless feel if you can overcome your fears then and only then can you be brave. They don't ever really deal with their fears, they simply learn to ignore them or circumvent them. We do that all the time. We encapsulate our fears and hide them away. in the US we have become a society of Dauntless. We hold us this exterior of confidence and bravery when we are wracked with fear on the inside. We are not the most overweight, debt encumbered and most medicated society in history for no reason, We use these things as tools to avoid all that we fear.
And here is the real kicker: fear does not just go away. Four recognizes this, He had four fears when he first took the fear test and he STILL has four fears after reentering the fear test over and over. Even when we overcome one fear, some other will crop up its ugly head. This is the reason I think Jesus talks to us about fear more than He even talks about love. Fear is part of being human condition. But we do not have to be crippled by it or try to hide it. We have to simply face it with the knowledge that we can overcome it through the help of God and those people places in out lives.
4) Faction over blood. The social/political/activity/work groups that we belong to sometimes take us away from the bond that should e the strongest in our lives: family. We let the need to belong and to make our factions happy block out the need we have for a family that accepts us as we are. And I even think of it on a different level: Do we not let our factions become more important than the blood that was shed for us; the blood that binds us to a true and eternal family,
If you have not read the books or seen the movie, I recommend it. A lot.