78 years after its publication, George Orwell's "Animal Farm" is more relevant than ever. The satiric fairy tale in which the four-legged denizens of an ineptly run farm expel their alcoholic human minder from his estate and install a utopian society where "all animals are created equal," only to watch their every lofty ideal be corrupted by greed and a wanton thirst for power, was initially written as a response to the Stalinist system that darkly blossomed out of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union.
In today's authoritarian societies, there's nary a pretense of equality. Oligarchies are all the rage, and these venal strongmen prop themselves up by catering to the vilest prejudices of their citizenry. They target the powerless in the hopes that their hateful, poorly educated supporters never suspect that they are the author of their misery.
The common denominator is, of course, the axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings have done nothing throughout the planet's history to disprove this. If there is any hope for our species, it's that this lesson is hammered home when we're young. Orwell's novella is the perfect vehicle for this, so it's encouraging that Andy Serkis is hard at work on a new animated version — and that he's aware that certain plot details need to be tweaked to ring truer in our times.
Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad
During a Toronto ComiCon panel attended by /Film's Sarah Bea Millner, Andy Serkis revealed that he has been working closely with George Orwell's estate to update the narrative without betraying the author's intent. "[I]t's very, very contemporary," said Serkis. "It also has a lot of humor in it, and it also has a particular point of view."
How exactly will Serkis shift the satiric perspective, and will he go after any dictator specifically? He was a tad evasive on this point. Here's what he told the ComiCon audience:
"I mean, look around the world, what's happening, you can see how eternally relevant that book is still. But the ways and the language of telling that story have changed. And the targets, the characters that are being satirized are not Stalin and Trotsky and all of those people, they are — I'm not going to say who."
A Case In Which Naming Names Is Wholly Justified
This is a tad disappointing, as George Orwell did not hesitate to name his target, which was quite inconvenient for him in 1945. After all, the Soviet Union had proven to be an immensely valuable ally in the European Theater of World War II; ergo, British publishing houses were highly unreceptive to any works critical of Stalin.
It probably behooves Serkis in the short term to avoid calling out his quarry, especially since he's had such a rough time cobbling together the financing for the project. It was originally envisioned as a performance capture adaptation, but will now be realized via traditional animation. But with totalitarian threats as pervasive and ruthless as Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and the Republican Party of the United States, it doesn't do to muddy the allegory. "Animal Farm" is a blunt instrument, and it should be wielded as such.
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The post Andy Serkis' Animal Farm Will Satirize Modern Targets Instead Of Stalinist Russia appeared first on /Film.