John Preston meets Mary O’Brien (Emily Watson) after being paired with his new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs), after another routine raid for sense offense.
At first, I was going to identify her as Guardian at the Threshold, but Cimmorene astutely pointed out that that role belonged to his son Robbie, the Cleric-in-training, especially as he witnesses him missing a dose of Prozium.
During Preston’s interrogation of Mary O’Brien, she poses the great rhetorical question: “Why are you alive?”
Since Preston does not seem to really know (he presents a circular argument, in her words) she provides the answer: “To feel.”
This is probably the overarching message of the movie– to feel emotion is human, and to suppress it is to suppress humanity. (I will explain later that not everyone in the film follows such suppression– some for good, some for evil.)
And I will make a quick aside for a moment. This film is commonly compared to two other stories, one of them Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and the other the Wachowskis’ film The Matrix. By and large, both these comparisons carry a higher regard. More specifically, some critics believe Equilibrium’s message of emotion being necessary to full humanity is not as compelling as the message of The Matrix, which has more nuanced layers concerning free will, freedom, and oppression of humanity by technological symbolism. While I enjoy The Matrix (and someday I will explore how Reloaded and Revolutions, the sequels, explore more of Joseph Campbell’s ideas), I take issue with criticism on Equilibrium.
The only story I can think of concerning suppression of emotion is within Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Those that suppressed emotion in favor of logic, the Vulcans, are presented as noble, almost selfless, while the people that split from them, the Romulans, are presented as passion-bound warmongers. With apologies to Trek fans, there is little exploration that both sides are needed.
Anyways, Mary O’Brien here also fulfills the role of Goddess, as Preston discovers in a subsequent interrogation that not only she and his former partner Partridge were lovers, but that he has romantic feelings for her as well. This I will explain later, as this movie has so many ticks, so many scenes, that each have meaning and significance.
NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Preston grapples with emotion: Crossing of the Threshold
- John Preston’s son Robbie: Guardian at the Threshold (jaklumen.wordpress.com)
- Rediscovering humanity in a dystopian society – Kurt Wimmer’s “Equilibrium” (2002) (rblmtcl1.wordpress.com)