“I’d like to start you on a full course of inhibitors immediately.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to live a normal life.
At least for a while.”
Kristen Stewart isn’t exactly on my list of favorite actresses. As I wrote in my review of “Snow White and the Huntsman” : “She shows almost no emotion and I’m convinced she dips her face in starch before walking onto the set”. But regarding this film, she was most suited. A postwar society (indeed, again after a devastating war) in which all the survivors their DNA has been manipulated in such a way that all feelings are gone. No impulsive behavior. No depression, pain or overwhelming feelings. No more feelings of lust, love, hate, jealousy and joy. Numb beings, functioning on autopilot. Their only purpose in life is to explore space.
However, there are people who suffer from a particular syndrome which returns repressed feelings and causes them to react differently to certain situations and develop primitive feelings again. Such as the craving for eroticism (something that is completely forbidden). This disease is called S.O.S. (Switched-On Syndrome) and there’s no adequate medication for this syndrome. Most patients end up in “the den” (defective, emotional, neuropathy facility). The only cure there is to encourage suicide.
Sounds pretty depressing. And on the one hand it surely is a bleak and dreary society in a clinical white environment, with every feeling or pleasure nipped in the bud. Everyone lives individualistic in a high-tech Cubist house that responds to the necessary basic needs. And every day, everyone goes to work in a casual and comatic way. A bit like in “Metropolis“. On the other hand it seems to me as a blessing to be rid of annoying human traits such as jealousy, envy and competitivity.
It’s in this utopian ( “Oblivion” -like) society that an impossible and forbidden love emerges. A loaded and (for them) exciting resurgence of an irresistible attraction between Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and Nia (Kristen Stewart). Naturally, all the ingredients of an impossible love are present, as in multiple other films about this topic. Only this is now soaked in a SF sauce. And the universal rule that love overcomes everything, is of course also present.
Despite the romantic aspect and the fact that “Equals” is a huge slow-burner, this film was extremely fascinating to me. Not because of the subject, but because of the overall visual image. Everything looks, despite its simplicity, overwhelming. The overall picture was spot on.
And then there’s this subdued, wait and see attitude of the two protagonists, which is depicted in a restrained but extremely adequate way. You can truly feel how they experienced that first touch. How painful it is to suppress the overwhelming feelings. And how wrenching it is to be separated. Superb acting by Hoult and Stewart. I have a little more respect for Hoult, because Stewart just needed to be herself to achieve this, I reckon.
It’s been a long time since I enjoyed once again a pure SF without intergalactic battlefields and an abundance of special effects. However, many will say this movie is dull and superficial because of the lack of exciting action and sensational imagery. I, however, loved the simplicity the most. Tucked beneath this simplicity, however, there’s a complex human process that everyone faces once anyway.