Chandler Tuttle

29 May 2009

Armie Hammer as Harrison Bergeron

TAGLINE“But in a world where the extraordinary is outlawed, only the outlaws will be extraordinary.”

2081 (2009) is a simply-breathtaking libertarian short film based on the classic short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Written for the screen and directed by Chandler Tuttle, this short film depicts a dystopian future in which the state forcibly homogenises its subjects, disabling the abled in the name of so-called “equality.”  As the narrator (Patricia Clarkson) explains in the opening of the film,

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal.  They weren’t only equal before God and the law, you see.  They were equal every which way.  Nobody was smarter than anybody else.  Nobody was better looking than anybody else.  Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.  And all this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of the United States Handicapper General.  The strong wore weights to make them weaker.  The intelligent wore earpieces that kept them from taking unfair advantage of their brains.  Even the beautiful sometimes wore masks in situations where their beauty might simply be…too distracting.  It was the Golden Age of Equality.

Of course, since some are forced to wear earpieces and others are not, since some are forced to wear heavy weights while others are not, anybody watching the film can quickly notice that this state-enforced social conformity has nothing to do with the sort of equality defended by John Locke or Roderick Long.  Rather, this is an objectively authoritarian perversion of equality, the real aim of which is the subjugation by the state of its subjects, and the obliteration of individualism.  Fortunately, the state turns out to be incapable of entirely destroying the extraordinary.  Thus, enter Harrison Bergeron, a revolutionary libertarian hero who aims for the overthrow of his oppressive government.

Harrison Bergeron (played by Armie Hammer) escapes from prison, where he was being held for “propagandist vandalism, broadcast piracy, refusal to report for his quarterly handicapping evaluations, and for the blatant removal of his handicaps in a public place.”  Bergeron makes his way to the National Ballet, which is being broadcast across the country, where he introduces himself and his objective thusly:

My name is Harrison Bergeron.  I am a fugitive, and a public threat.  I am an abomination of the able.  I am an exception to the accepted.  I am the greatest man you have never known.  And for the last six years, I have been held prisoner by the state—sentenced, without trial, to torture without end.  They [the state and its henchmen] had hoped to destroy in me any trace of the extraordinary…but the extraordinary, it seems, was simply out of their reach.  So now I stand before you today, beaten, hobbled, and sickened…but, sadly, not broken.  And I say to you, that if it is greatness we must destroy, then let us drag our enemy out of the darkness, where it has been hiding.  Let us shine a light so, at last, all the world can see!

Bergeron’s objective is to expose to the state’s subjects the inherently-aggressive nature of statism, to expose the gun that is behind every statist edict.  And, he succeeds.  After he removes his handicaps, which includes a yoke around his neck, a ballerina played by Alina Faye removes her handicaps as well.  The two dance on stage to some wonderfully haunting music written by Lee Brooks and performed by the Kronos Quartet, that is, until the Handicapper General (played by Tammy Bruce) enters and shoots them both dead.  Among the viewers of the programme is George Bergeron, Harrison’s father.  Played by James Cosmo, George does not have much to say in the film, yet his acting, his expression of emotion, stands out as positively superb.  Even if the movie were not amazing in its own right, it would be worth watching just for Cosmo’s performance.

Joe Crowe, managing editor of the online magazine Revolution Science Fiction, calls the movie “stirring and dramatic,” and says it “gets right to the point, and nails the adaptation in about 25 minutes.”  And Novelist Edward Cline writes for Capitalism Magazine that, although the film is only around twenty-five minutes in length, it “packs a punch as terrible as Michael Radford’s gritty, nearly two-hour long Nineteen Eighty-Four.  The production values are as good as any $20 million budget blockbuster’s.  As a parable on the price of silence and the fate of those who prefer security and passivity over independence and freedom, it is one of the best films I have ever seen.”

James Cosmo as George Bergeron





Short Film

Buy the DVD

Visit the Official 2081 Website

Read “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut