Some thoughts on the movie “Downsizing”

Recently I watched the movie “Downsizing” starring Matt Damon, Hong Chau and Christoph Waltz. Though the movie is a box office flop, it presents the fascinating idea of “downsizing” human to several inches high to solve overpopulation. I’ve talked about the movie with some friends already. That’s why I think I may put a post here for more discussions.

It all starts with a scientist inventing this magic process of “downsizing”: shrinking human to several inches high, which is presented to the world to attract people to downsize themselves. Then they build a smaller world for the “downsized”, where they enjoy more paying less as they consume less due to their size. Paul the protagonist (played by Matt Damon) is amazed by the idea and undergoes downsizing. But when he begins his new life in the downsized world, he suffers an identity crisis: dumped by his wife and lost his job as an occupational therapist. Later he meets Ngoc Lan, a Vietnamese political activist and joins her in helping the poor in the slums. When he slowly comes to terms with his new life, the world is about to end because of global warming. The scientist who invented “downsizing” finds a way to sustain humanity — protecting a community of people in a vault created in a mountain. Will Paul join the scientist community in the vault and restart yet another life? Or will he carry on with his newly built life in the downsized world?

I think the movie delivers 2 main messages.

First, most people don’t know what they’re doing with their life until they find their meaning. Paul is an average guy. From his decisions like undergoing downsizing to escape the reality, getting into a random job of a hotline service representative, accepting a new friend’s suggestion to go to Norway, and struggling whether to enter the vault toward the end, we can tell he doesn’t know what he’s doing in life until he meets Ngoc Lan and starts helping in the slums. He finds himself in serving the poor.

Second, even in the utopia slums exist. When you come to think of it, it’s really ridiculous that even in such a tailor-made utopia as the downsized world, there are slums. Paul is first brought there by Ngoc Lan to treat a dying woman. They use expired medication because that’s all they have. The woman dies the next day. Not to mention the food distributed there is collected from around the downsized world by Paul and Ngoc Lan. Life in the slums is cheap. So the enormous gap between the rich and poor may be the second message delivered in the movie.

I see the downsized world as a modern Lilliput or a seeming utopia. As the plot unfolds, there can be a lot of interpretations. And here’s my take and what’s yours? 


看電影《縮水人間》有感

最近看了由麥 · 迪文、周洪和基斯托夫 · 華薩主演的《縮水人間》,我和許多朋友分享過,在此記下所思所感。電影講述一個科學家發明可把人縮小到五英寸的技術,讓縮小的人類住在一個新的社區,解決人口過多資源不足的問題。

科學家在發明了縮小技術後,積極向人類推廣,隨着愈來愈多人縮小自己,縮小的社群搬進了一個縮小社區,因為體型驟減的關係,他們可用小量資源享受奢華的生活。主角保羅(由麥 · 迪文飾演)也打算與妻子一起縮小自己搬進新社區,可是妻子最後反悔,只有保羅一人進行了手術並在縮小世界開始新生活。此時,保羅不僅被妻子拋棄,在新社區中亦不能繼續他職業治療師的舊業。他其後認識了越南政治活動活躍人士玉蘭,並與其在貧民窟中做義工分發食物給窮人,當他逐漸適應新生活,人類亦因全球暖化而面對滅亡,發明縮小技術的科學家打算在山中建立大型保險庫作為下一個新世界保存一批人。保羅陷入跟隨科學家到新世界抑或留在縮小社區繼續生活的掙扎中。

我想電影主要講了兩件事。

其一,其實大部分人都不保道自己在幹甚麼,直至他們找到自己的意義前。例如主角保羅,他是個再普通不過的人,從他決定縮小自己來逃避現實開始,他都不知道自己在做甚麼,所以他在新社區隨便找了電話客戶服務員的工作,接受一個新認識的朋友的建議到挪威去,最終還掙扎要不要再次放下一切到新世界去,過程中他都很迷失不知道自己在做甚麼,直至他在幫助貧民中找到了自己的意義。

其二,即使在烏托邦中也有貧民窟。電影中的貧民窟在縮小世界的偏遠位置,首次向觀眾展現是玉蘭知道保羅是治療師後把他帶到貧民窟去醫治一個將死的婦人,而他們僅有的藥物全是過期的,他們分發給貧民的食物甚至是他們從社區不同地方收集來的人家不要的食物,這發生在縮小社區這人造烏托邦中讓人難以置信,而貧民窟中的生命卻不值錢,這與縮小社區的奢侈形成鮮明對比,諷刺了貧富懸殊。

縮小社區就像個現代小人國,看似烏托邦,隨着故事發展有了不同的詮釋,這是我的想法,你呢?