Monday, February 25, 2013

A Very Marxist Movie

With utter and complete disregard of the Oscars yesterday, I watched a movie....

I watched one of the most Marxist movies I have seen in a long time.  Fortunately, it was also a terrible movie.  It's called, "In Time" (2011) with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.  I won't get into anything that a normal movie critic would look at like acting or cinematography; I'll concentrate on what I know--economics.

The story takes place in a dystopic future.  Normally, I love dystopic movies because usually they are about an oppressed people who throw off their chains and fight for freedom.  While this movie is about an oppressed people, who throw off their chains, it is a world in which the Marxist vision of capitalism is alive.  The rich are parasites that feed off the poor and that system must be overthrown.

So here is the premise of the movie...

People have been genetically modified so that they stop aging at 25 years, what you look like at age 25 is locked in.  (Amazingly, everyone is gorgeous.  I don't remember 25 like that, but I guess my memory has faded with age.)  When one reaches 25, numbers on your left arm light up and start counting down from 1 year.  If they reach zero, you die.  Fortunately, time can be added and subtracted.  As a result, time has become the medium of exchange.  Literally, time is money!

In a classic Marxist perspective, society is divided up into distinct "Time Zones" or socio-economic classes.  The ghetto (zone 12) is populated by the poor who labor day-to-day barely scrapping by, whereas in the rich district of New Greenwich, the rich live idle lives.  In fact since they have all the time in the world (again literally!) they are accused of not actually living at all.

The "hero" explains that prices rise for no apparent reason.  The cup of coffee's price was 4 minutes, but then jumps up to 5 minutes the next day.  A bus ride was an hour, but now has a price of 2 hours.  As a result, the hero's mom is (in a tragic and supposedly heart-wrenching scene) the first shown to die when time runs out. Actually, I didn't feel all that bad, mostly because the movie was terrible.  Or is it because I am not a Marxist?  hmm...

The plot moves forward when the "hero" helps a rich guy slumming it.  His name is Henry.  Henry is tired of living and is contemplating suicide even though he has over a century on his clock.  The movie shows its true Marxist colors in the following exchange between Henry and the "hero" Will.

Henry Hamilton: For a few to be immortal, many must die. 
Will Salas: What the hell is that supposed to mean? 
Henry Hamilton: You really don't know, do you? Everyone can't live forever. Where would we put them? Why do you think there are time zones? Why do you think taxes and prices go up the same day in the ghetto? The cost of living keeps rising to make sure people keep dying. How else could there be men with a million years while most live day to day? But the truth is... there's more than enough. No one has to die before their time. If you had as much time as I have on that clock, what would you do with it? 
The point is that the population is increasing and so prices (from an assumed Central Planner) rise to reduce the surplus population. The result is a transfer of time (wealth) to the rich.  And so the rich get richer by stealing from the poor.

However before Henry kills himself, he gives the "hero" over 100 years.  Our "hero" then goes to the capital to experience the life of the idle rich.  He gains even more years by playing poker and meets Amanda Seyfried.  After romancing her, the cops come along and accuse him of stealing the rich guy's time.  After the usual escape and chase action found in Hollywood movies, Timberlake and Seyfried's characters decide to get back at the rich.  They use guns (Oh Hollywood!) and start robbing banks.  They redistribute the time to the poor who, of course, selflessly share this time with everyone else who is poor.  They then emigrate out of their zone and cross into the rich zone, thus collapsing the system.  

And if that simply isn't enough Communist preachiness for you, then there is the coupe de grace.  As the "heroes" are robbing the banks, there are a few moments when they ask if robbing the banks are wrong.  The answer is: no, this is not wrong.  They ask, "Is it stealing if it is already stolen?"  Yes, all the rich ever do is steal their wealth.  Yes, Proudhon lives, "All property is theft."  

If this is the sort of movies that Hollywood insists on making, you can see why I skipped the Oscars.

One last note, this movie lost money in the US.  It was budgeted at approximately $40 million and brought in $37.6 million.  So do they simply make it for ideological reasons?  No, because, according to IMDB, Non-US Income was $103.2 million.  Now what does that tell you?  Your guess is as good as mine.


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