Not since the sixties have we been so polarized and this has shown up again in modern day horror and science fiction film. There are two ways this has been handled. The first typified in the X Men series and the next in the apocalyptic battles with the undead. The first example expresses the difficult way of compromise that leads to beauty and strength and the second, while more fun, is about having your (perhaps false) righteous tribe take on the (perhaps falsely accused) unrighteous. (Thinking of these has been a humorous exercise.)
This brings me to the middle ground of such films, particularly a thoughtful drama called”Take Shelter.” The story is about the trust that the characters Curtis and Samantha place in one another. Throughout the movie it is uncertain whether it is illness or disaster that is coming though that is not really the point. The movie is about standing next to the other amidst anxiety.
What the thrillers of the day are really about is this existential question…..what do we do with the uncertainty of uncertain times? But Curtis’ story is not a story of a brave new world or a survivalist fantasy.
He has every reason to hope he is wrong, but he cannot trust the powers that are reflected in the attitudes of the people of his small town. He would gladly be wrong to save the two people he loves from the onslaught he fears will come. He has packed up food, built a shelter, bought gas masks and laid plans. All of these he is called to abandon and abandon he does toward the conclusion of the film which gives warrant and justification for his nightmare. Only now he is without those things that would save his wife and little girl. And yet there is hope for at the film’s end Samantha shares his vision and having been made aware of the anxiety Curtis faces, she who put her faith in him as he did in her, has become his ally.
In the end Curtis is no cowboy. He may question his sanity, but he is more sane than those who retreat to the backwoods to wait for the fall of society. He is also no realist, but is more realistic than to fall into the “everything will be okay” ignorance of the majority. In short he is a prophet, as evidenced in his biblical speech of the coming storm. And Samantha is the handmaiden.
The conclusion is a perplexing one. We do not know if this small family now must await their fate or if they are now called to announce some great calamity to the world. In this way they are the people of the world who hope for a better day with the understanding that such a day is never certain.