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12 Monkeys, directed by Terry Gilliam, depicts a story about time-travel. Cole, the main actor, volunteers to go back into time to help prevent the spread of a virus. During his travel, viewers are able to grasp the idea of surveillance, mental-illness, and the usage of technology and how it affects the way audience members perceive the film as a whole and how it affects today’s society. By viewers being able to understand the way surveillance, mental-illness, and technology is used in 12 Monkeys, people will be able to relate how these issues are repetitive in terms of today’s society. In addition, readers will be able to get an in-depth understanding of how the director illustrated these ideas in the film (i.e repetition of scenes, language used, etc.)
In the beginning of the film, Cole is forced into a mental institution. Cole, who is not mentally ill, is confused and trying to make the workers understand that he in fact is not “crazy”. However, he is ignored and placed with other people who are really mentally ill. In this scene, he meets Jeffrey Goines who is the leader of the 12 Monkeys, which viewers learn later of. Jeffrey begins to give Cole a tour and says some of the following sentences: we play games that vegetize you… telephone call? that is communication with the outside world… I’m not saying that you are mentally ill, for what you may be a loon but that is not why you are here, you are here because of the system” (12 Monkeys) This scene illustrates a huge theme for the overall film. The idea of surveillance and mental-illness comes out of this scene. Jeffery seems to be aware that this “ institution”( mental-institution) and what it does to people and is accepting of it. The people in the mental institution are brainwashed into thinking that they are a threat to the outside world and they belong where they do. People in these institutions do not have the ability to leave these places. More importantly, the director created scene that shows how the government (and even people with power) have authority over other’s lives. In addition, when Jeffery mentions the idea of being part of a “system”, and basically no way out, many people would be able to agree how the “system” is relevant to today’s world. Of course, the “system” can be interpreted in any ways such as the “prison system” “ education system” and many more. The idea of a “system” can make some people think of government control ( as mentioned above). It was not coincidental for Terry to include these types of ideas for the fact that human beings will always be classified under a type of “ system”. For the film’s sake, the “system” that Jeffery was referring to was to the institution. This, however, does not change the way people think of the word “ system” because like in the film, there is no way to get out of it.
Terry Gilliam was able to create a successful plot through the usage of his dialect. He used words like “system” that is essentially a word that is open for discussion. In addition, the setting of the scene makes the audience members understand how people that are stuck in these mental institutions have no way out of it. They become a part of the system. Similarly, people may agree that people are all a part of some type of system that has no escape from either. This idea centralizes the whole film.
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