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Comments for Series 7: The Contenders


Wow.

There has been a lot of positive reviews in the overseas press, and now I know why.

While viewing the film, and after leaving the cinema, I thought, "Yes, it's good, but not *that* good..."

However, the more I mull over what the film has to say, the higher my respect for it grows.

Some foreign reviewers have compared this to "The Blair Witch Project", and indeed there are similarities: A cast of unknowns, hand-held cameras, completely fresh and unorthodox approach to film making, and shocking in places.

However, while "Witch's" hype exceeded the quality of the product, that is not the case here.

On the surface, this film is a satire of the current wave of "reality TV" shows that are so popular, like "Survivor" and "Big Brother". The film presents itself as a series of episodes of just such a game show, featuring randomly selected contestants from the general public, who are given a handgun. The winner is the contender who is still alive after all the other contenders have been killed. Each contender has to murder the other contenders in any way they can.

In this game, you are voted off the island with a slug of lead fired at you at point blank range.

The TV show features the usual profiles of each contender, much like "Survivor", as well as candid "in your face" interviews about what their plans are and what they think of the other contenders.

And then we accompany them as they go about killing each other.

The small preview audience had to laugh occassionally. The whole setup, and some of the dialogue, is just so sick, that we had to laugh. This is humour at its pitch blackest -- it cannot get any darker than this.

There are some twists in the tale which I won't reveal, except to say that it will not end like you think it will.

I left the cinema in a somewhat confused state of mind. Yes, it is a parody of the "Survivor" type game show, but I could not help feeling that writer/director Daniel Minahan was trying to say something else much more important.

After much pondering, I focused on the aspect of the film that I'm sure (well, I hope so) everyone else will be thinking about while watching it: Why do the contenders, and the rest of society, accept this game of murder as perfectly normal?

Then I got to thinking about where else in life do we randomly select people, give them guns, and then set them loose to murder other people?

The answer flashed: War.

And then I realised that Series 7 is possibly the greatest -- and most subtle -- anti-war movie ever made.

Previous anti-war movies, like "Saving Private Ryan" or "Enemy at the Gates" have concentrated on the "War is Hell" theme, graphically showing the pain and suffering that war brings.

Yet none of them have questioned the moral philosophy behind it all. And this is precisely where Series 7 steps in.

By reducing international war to the personal level, by representing each country with just one person, the whole moral issue is brought into sharp focus, and it allows the audience (I hope, I certainly did) to scream silently: "Why the heck do these people allow this atrocity, these murders, to take place?"

We can all see that The Game, as played in the movie, is plainly morally wrong. We feel that modern society would never allow such a game to happen. Yet we do. And it is called War.

And in war, people behave just like those in Series 7: the parents sending off their only child to kill other people, cheering her on in her successes, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she is their only child and could be killed. We have the somewhat-psycho with the death wish. We have the patriotic professional, just doing what she has to do: cold-blooded murder. We have the macho he-man, thinking he is invincible.

Unfortunately it seems that, just as with "Jakob the Liar", most of the media are missing the hidden message of the film, and instead concentrating on the superficial story.

The other aspect which Series 7 brings front and centre, is the whole way in which the media is shaping society. It turns murderers into popular heros. It invades private lives, and turns them into a circus for public consumption. People dying become just another episode in a soap opera, complete with teasers and lingering stares.

As such, Series 7 is again to be commended for highlighting this issue and sounding a warning bell. We need to watch what is happening to the way our society develops. Does the media have too much control? Why do we allow it?

Why do we teach our children that genocidal mass murderers like Julius Caesar and Alexander the "Great" were leaders to be respected and admired?

Another way of looking at Series 7 is as a case study in Memes, for those of you who know what memes are (basically 'patterns of thought' which somehow spread amongst humans). Society runs on memes, and people who go against the current memes are labelled as outcasts and weirdos. For example, anyone dressing in 14th century European Nobility attire today, will be thought a loony. And that is exactly what happens in Series 7, where the person responsible for the ONE rational murder in the film, is locked up as a crazed lunatic.

This movie provides suitable material for many a Guidance Class discussion at school. Pity the 18 age restriction (which is warranted) will limit such a use to matrics only.

-- Ian Douglas

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