Movie review and Anthroposophical commentary by Arthur Hildreth Jr.
The next time you are in front of the mirror take a good hard look and ask yourself, Am I a zombie? In fact, take note of your behavior in the company of others and ask again, Am I a zombie? You might also look around you and take note of anyone else you think might be a zombie. You may be surprised with what you find out about yourself and the people you think you know and those you see at school or work nearly every day. You may even believe the buzz in the media and the subject of some six hundred movies in the last forty years of a coming zombie apocalypse. You might even believe you are living it, or not living!
Until recently, zombie movies have been more a warning of impending doom depicting flesh-eating corpses whose condition spreads to all who are injured, eaten or killed by them. The term Zombie has many meanings in today’s culture from a mixed alcoholic drink to a flesh eating reanimated corpse. Warm Bodies a Zombie movie based on Isaac Marion’s novel and released in February 2013 has an advertising tagline, “He’s still dead but he is getting warmer.” This movie, taking place mostly after the “Zombie Apocalypse”, is a romantic comedy and offers hope rather than doom. The main protagonists are a young woman, Julie, in her late teens and a male zombie, R, who is or was similar in age. The antagonists are the, relatively speaking, few living humans who have the “it’s-us-or-them” mentality—and the Boneys, zombies who have lost all hope. The Boneys are beyond the point of no return; symbolized in the movie by ripping off the flesh from their own bodies and leaving only the bones. In between are the few mostly young, living human beings and the many zombies who want to believe there is hope.
Of the many definitions of zombie, the one that stands out in relation to the current culture and the movie Warm Bodies is, “a person who looks or behaves like an automaton”. In the movie, much like in The Wizard of Oz when the Tin Man needed to be oiled, the zombies move as if their bodies were calcified. They act independent of one another and seem mostly to be unconscious of each other. In the presence of food, the zombies become aggressive even towards each other. So, what is an automaton? According to the American Heritage dictionary it is, “a self-operating machine or mechanism, esp. a robot; one that behaves or responds in a mechanical way”. So, a zombie is a machine or robot; something (or someone) which acts mechanically and doesn’t have consciousness.
In his lecture, Social and Anti-Social Forces in the Human Being, Rudolf Steiner tells us we live in the “Age of the Consciousness Soul”, when it is both natural and necessary for the human being to strive to become independent, self-directing or autonomous. This striving creates a tendency towards anti-social behavior which must be countered by fostering a conscious interest in other human beings. Dr. Steiner in the same lecture guides us in fostering this social instinct, “We need to develop an imaginative faculty for the other, and to do so we must look back quietly in our soul and see our relationships to other human beings”.
In Warm Bodies, it is the conscious interest in the other, occurring between the two protagonists, which create the turning point for humanity. As R’s body starts getting warmer through his interest in Julie and her interest in him, the other zombies can feel what is happening between the two of them. They too begin to change—becoming warmer. Their hearts start to beat. Throughout the movie we are able to hear R’s thoughts and reflections on all that has passed, including his interactions with others. He gains perspective and begins to understand his actions in the present. We learn that when a zombie eats the brains of what had just been a living human, they experience what that person experienced during their life and at death. It is the zombie’s chance to be alive even if only for a short time.
Now here enters the romantic part. R finally tells Julie that he ate her boyfriend’s brains; she suspected it but still found it hard to hear. R continues to show his good intentions and with time Julie is able to see things from the larger perspective. In an escape from the Boneys, R, now nearly human, uses his body to shield Julie as they fall from a high ledge. This act, the ultimate giving of oneself for another, makes R fully human. R’s becoming fully human is the final sign which unites the human enclave with the zombies. With the Boneys nearly decimated and on the run, the movie ends as the walls of the city fortress, which once separated the humans and zombies, are demolished.
So, why a surge in the zombie culture particularly among our youth? Our youth have new eyes and perhaps they recognize some truth in the idea of the Undead. Read Rudolf Steiner’s lecture and watch the movie. Then take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, Am I a zombie?
I come to myself. I am.
I die to myself. I am not.
I rise with Christ. Not I, but the Christ in me.
Steiner, Rudolf. “Social and Anti-social Forces in the Human Being.” Spring Valley: Mercury Press, 12 December 1918. Booklet.
Warm Bodies. Dir. Jonathan Levine. Perf. Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. 2013. DVD.