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Equilibrium Fan Article by Shawn Novinger
Influences in Equilibrium


Now, most anyone who has seen Equilibrium can say, at some point or another during the film, “Hey! That’s familiar!” Yes, it most likely is. Kurt Wimmer (the director) made excellent use of a wide array of influences to make this amazing movie work so well. Almost all forms of art – be it film, written, painting, or otherwise – have been seamlessly woven into the story, to make it seem very real. If you have something to compare an idea to, it becomes all the more possible in your mind.

The interesting thing about the influences of Equilibrium is that they don’t follow how most films are influenced. Some things that the film uses are only a few years older than the film itself. If a movie these days is going to be inspired by something, it usually takes from the past (For example, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sin City, and Dick Tracy. These films, though based somewhat in the present/future, all have an ambiance characteristic of films in the 1940’s/50’s).

To maintain some form of organization, I’ll break this down into subheading-ed sections.



FILMS

Although many films can be stated as influential in Equilibrium, I’ll only point out a few (primarily because they’re the ones I’ve seen).

The Matrix – Equilibrium’s graphic novel style filming can be compared heavily to that of The Matrix. Certain shots are almost identical. Also, the martial arts fight sequences are reminiscent of The Matrix, and an assortment of other action films. Musically, Equilibrium is similar to The Matrix, as well. Not very much, but enough.

Judge Dredd – Post apocalyptic waste lands, corrupt government, rebel fighters, the best officer on the force rising up to fight for the people…Both Equilibrium and Judge Dredd share these plot points, and both use them well. However, Equilibrium takes the ideas on a more serious path, whereas Judge Dredd was filled with required Stallone and Schneider humour.

Blade Runner – The key things that Equilibrium borrows from Blade Runner are a dark future, and the noirish detective story theme. Otherwise, Blade Runner deals with robots, and Equilibrium with overturning a government.



Total Recall - "Also, one thing maybe worth noting is that I borrowed from one other film ...Total Recall - one of my faves. Preston's journey is identical - the true believer who is used to unwittingly infiltrate the underground...”
Kurt Wimmer said the above on the CHUD message boards (1). Though a fairly vague film comparison, the underlying idea is quite clear in both films.

Soldier – Bred to kill, and taught to feel nothing, soldiers can make perfect killing machines; One-man armies. The idea for the Clerics of Equilibrium could be taken almost directly from this. Trained in various martial arts, studying the fighting habits of past enemies, the Clerics are virtually unstoppable.



LITERATURE

The only book I wish to touch upon here is George Orwell’s 1984. Startling in the time that it was written, and even today, 1984 deals with the idea of a Totalitarian government system that really does control everything. Maintaining clear segregations between and within classes, controlling what the population does and does not know, erasing history to make things seem perfect, even restricting entertainment. However, those who control everything are able to indulge in the things they restrict: alcohol, books, films, entertainment overall. In 1984, one entity is displayed as a loving sibling, watching over the public, making sure they stay in line, making sure they’re safe: Big Brother.

Equilibrium makes heavy use of the ideas in 1984, using a third world war as the explanation for why everything changes. The government that is so adamant about people taking Prozium seems to be “off the dose” entirely. DuPont himself, Father’s right-hand-man, has paintings in his office. Not very Librian of him, is it?

Father, also, seems to be a reference, unintentional as it may be, to Big Brother. However, as siblings can tend to be rough on each other, the Father figure is often a symbol of care, and punishment only when absolutely needed.



CULTURE/HISTORY

Religion. Everything boils down to religion. If “Father” was an accidental reference to Big Brother, it was a completely intentional reference to God, in all His forms (2). Loving of all, yet completely vengeful when one breaks a rule. A figure to look up to and respect, yet fear at the same time.

The Tetragrammaton name and symbol also have heavy religious backgrounds. The name of “Tetragrammaton” refers eventually, when one goes through all the Judaic reading, to God. The symbol is made up of four T’s, forming a sort of cross.


The cross itself has always been a religious staple, signifying greatly holy things. However, as it has become more apparent, not all religion is either basely pure, or at least as pure as it used to be. So, although the Tetragrammaton symbol may have stood for something just, and pure at the point of its inception, it’s name has been, unbeknownst to the Librian public, tarnished by years of governmental corruption.

Also, the “Clerics” of Libria. Defenders of Father’s Will. Keepers of the peace. Above the normal police force, the Clerics are charged with picking out Sense Offenders, and convicting them. The term “cleric” in today’ society refers, most often, to priests, or members of the clergy. These men also serve a “Father”, but they don’t kill.

The idea of EC-10 rated material in Equilibrium (or “Entertaining content”) can be closely tied to such things as the RIAA, or the MPAA (3). Both of these organizations seek to, in one way or another, limit what the public sees and hears. Not necessarily to hide them from the truth or entertainment, but to censor certain messages which can be deemed too graphic, or crude, or inappropriate. In the case of the RIAA, music is often edited to take out any profanity, or sexually graphic lyrics, to allow children to listen without picking up too many bad habits. With the MPAA, films are reviewed and changed to make a scene of violence or sex less graphic, in order to fit into a certain ratings level.

The EC-10 concept is that of completely destroying anything which could give someone the idea of feeling an emotion. If we can’t read a book, we can’t be touched by its message, or learn from what it has to say.

The aesthetics of many of the buildings in Equilibrium seem to come directly from the canvasses of Hugh Ferriss (4). Ferriss’ art deals largely with hard-edged buildings, functional and bland, yet eye-catching nonetheless. The designs of the buildings in both Ferriss’ art and in Equilibrium are so static that one must look (5).

The history of many governments also seemed to influence Wimmer’s Librian government. The Totalitarianism is reminiscent of Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia/Cuba/China, perhaps even Korea. The hidden over-indulgences of government members is also not simply restricted to what we see in movies. Purchased officials, members of parliament paying for sex, or drugs, or even both. These are the real world equivalents of the paintings in DuPont’s office, his quoting of Yeats, the ornate samurai swords on his desk, the clear, uncovered view of the city through his window.

Also, the Tetragrammaton cross, and the flags flowing behind the holographic image of Father are very similar to the Swastika, and the Nazi flags used during World War II, though unintentional, the idea is still there.


As Wimmer pointed out, the Clerics are based on interesting ancient warriorhoods (6). Primarily Japanese in execution of attacks, and overall fighting styles. The unwavering devotion to the leader hints at ancient samurai groups, who would kill themselves if asked to by their leader.
Also, Gun Kata is an interesting fighting style, taking influences from a great many different martial arts styles (7). Adding guns to the mix is an interesting twist which hasn’t been seen very much.

Overall, the city state of Libria appears very Nazi Germany inspired. Red flags emblazoned with the Tetragrammaton “T” fly everywhere; the buildings stand tall and stern; armed guards patrol the streets, keeping a watchful eye out for offenders. Although the general feel could be because the film was shot largely in Germany, many things were put in the film for effect. Instead of doing what Exit Wounds should have done (take out the CN Tower from the background), Equilibrium adds in heavily suggestive visuals of past controlling governments/governmental systems.



However, even with all of the influences mentioned above, and with many more still going unsaid, Equilibrium manages to stay its own movie. The combination of ideas creates a new idea, which stands completely individual.
So, with all this in mind, why not look for more influences? They’re almost never-ending, and it has been fun to try and spot them along the way. Watch the movie with a well read/film oriented group of friends, and you’ll have quite the night.