Movie review: The Philosophers (After the Dark)

Besides movies and series, I'm really passionate about philosophy. I've studied arts & social sciences. So I've read quite some philosophical pieces (Kant, Socrates, Plato, Nietzsche Descartes and more). But it started way earlier. When I was very young, I already bugged my mom with philosophical questions: Why is a chair a chair? And not a table. When you call it a chair, does it means it IS a chair? I was always trying to define things. And still am. I think philosophy is a beautiful thing and I can dwell in these thoughts for hours. Especially during my time at university, I could really drive people crazy. I could question everything. So when I heard of this movie The Philosophers (also known as After the Dark), I had to see it!  

 

It all starts at an international school in Jakarta.  It's the last day of school. The teacher starts by saying: "Here we are. At the end of it all. I've done what I can for you. Now you have to go out and think on your own. Time to fly or die". What follows is a short philosophical discussion. They discuss some interesting thought experiments. For example 'the trolley problem'. Have you heard of this thought experiment?   

The teacher proposes to do one last thought experiment before the holidays: A global disaster. It's atomic. The next scene, brings us to this world. Here the experiment begins. The students and teacher stand outside, watching the destroyed world. They start by forming the thought experiment: There's a bunker and they enter. There, the problem appears. They have a group of 21. But in the bunker, there's only room for 10. That's the thought experiment. What to do? First response is: share beds and rantion supplies. That can't be done. You can't share oxygen. The door of the bunker will be sealed and they need to live on compressed tanks with oxygen. The bunker is designed to support 10 people for 1 year. 1 person extra means death by asphyxia. To survive, they have to stay one year in the bunker. (Because of the air after the atomic disaster). The question then is: Who's valuable enough to expand the limited resources on. 


[spoilers ahead!] Every student gets a piece of paper with a profession on it. The professions vary. A few examples: opera singer, astronaut, phd in chemistry, housekeeper, electrician, wine auctioneer, gelato maker, fashion designer, soldier, senator, psychologist, poet. The teacher immediately shoots the poet through the head, making the students very mad. But the teacher says that wouldn't have voted for him in the bunker anyway. That his skill set was totally useless. Wouldn't it be more cruel to let him die by the atomic cloud? He explains further: Everyone has gotten a profession, but will have the same character as in real life in this experiment. 


A students asks who the teacher is in the experiment. He explains he's the wild card. They don't know his skill set. They'll just have to guess if they will need him or not. All the students start defending their value. After defending, everyone votes yes or no. They keep the surgeon. Vote the harpist out. "Even if you had a harp. As far as the survival of our species goes: Harp playing is not crucial." An they go on.. It gives a complete different view on jobs. Thinking: Would mine be valuable? After making the decision, they all take 5 minutes to be alone before going into the bunker. Meanwhile, the teacher shoots all the people that won't be in the bunker. He said they asked him to. The other students get a bad feeling about him. They don't want him in the bunker anymore. They quickly enter and close the doors. What they don't know is that the teacher was the only one who new the code to exit the bunker. When, after a year, it's time to leave the bunker, they couldn't. They tried everything but nothing worked. They died in the bunker. 


So they start over. But every bunker has to have at least on pregnancy. The lesson is now: No one is only defined by his or er skill set. There's always more to the story. On the inside of their profession cards, there's some more information. For example: The organic farmer is gay. The surgeon has been exposed to the Ebola virus. The carpenter is infertile. The real estate agent is also a midwife. The opera singer speaks 7 languages. But in 3 years, she'll have long cancer. If there's no hospital she will lose her voice. But it won't kill her. Now they vote by thinking of skills, the extra information & the idea of needing a pregnancy. In the bunker,  the big discussion is sex. They need to multiply and not everyone can or wants to. They decide on couples. When the women don't get pregnant, there's even more discussion: The women should have multiple partners. All the guys need to participate. If they want to or not. When a girl rejects the plan. The teacher points a gun at her: "Human beings are designed with a flaw: We believe what we feel, rather than what is." (...) "I won't have you debating us into extinction." What follows is a fight. But then the teachers just opens the doors, killing everyone. 


They do one last round: One of the students takes control. She proposes that she picks the group. No more democracy. The students picks the people she wants to see in the bunker. To the annoyance of her teacher, she picks people like the opera singer, the wine auctioneer and the harpist. After ten people, she picks another one. Which means she won't be in the bunker herself. The eleventh person says to her: You should go in, you're an engineer. I'm not worth as much as you." The student replies with "My logic is fuzzier. In my apocalypse everyone is worth as much as everybody else." But one of the students quickly switches with her, leaving her in the bunker anyway. What follows is a year full of creativity and fun. When they get out, they discover the bombs never fell. The teacher points out: They don't have a lot of survival skills, so won't survive for long anymore (They can't get back to Jakarta, or build a shelter, or grow food). The student answers: "Tragic and powerful, but wrong. We live. Briefly, yes. Imperfectly, of course. Stupidly, sometimes. But we don't mind, because that's the way we're made. And when it's time to die, we don't resist death. We summon it." [end of spoilers] 


I really liked the movie. I like the thought experiments. I loved hearing about it and see them talking about Plato's cave. I like how it makes you think about your role in life. Every round has a different perspective.  I enjoyed watching the movie. The one thing I didn't like was the end of the movie, when they're back in the classroom. (I won't tell what and why haha, I've already told enough!)


There are so many ways to think about the bunker. What's your goal, what is really important? All ways have flaws. And does it really matter? Is the survival of the human species the most important? And what decides then who should be saved? Who decides what's important in a 'new' world. Though there will be a new world, we keep thinking in our old ways. The world didn't start with engineers and surgeons. We tend to see everything in a certain frame. And if we let go of that, what will we have left? How do we know what to do? 


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Comments: 7
  • #1

    theresa (Friday, 29 July 2016 03:42)

    I was like woah-ing while reading your review.. Thought experiments amazes me. I am actually reading one Korean series entitled Beautiful Mind that has the same concept. Not the movie. It's a Korean series. You might want to check it out though you have to get ready reading sibtitles.

  • #2

    Kat (Friday, 29 July 2016)

    I was curious about the movie and wish I hadn't read this in full lol. I thought you were just talking about a story and not the movie plot. Anyway, I'll still take note of the movie title and find a copy. My partner will love this too. I also love philosophy and have taken courses on it in college even if not required. :)

  • #3

    sam (Friday, 29 July 2016 17:31)

    I really love this piece! It sounds like a very intellectual movie. Reminds me of Sophie's World book and iOrigins. Those are actually my favorite ones because I leave the cinemas/book with a sense of questioning my own reality.

  • #4

    ROBERT LEE (Friday, 29 July 2016 19:07)

    What if you had to die to live. The subtitle caught my attention. And I am a fan of mysteries too and I thought the subtitle was so catchy for me. It is an interesting fiction and definitely one that provokes thoughts. What would I have done? The truth is, until it is happening, whatever we talk about, whatever I say I would do, I guess it can be thrown out the window.

  • #5

    Bluedreamer (Monday, 01 August 2016 16:28)

    This seems like a very interesting film... this is actually my first time to hear about this film but the plot is seemingly very intriguing. That tagline "What If you had to die to survive" is quite thought provoking.. Hopefully I'll get a chance to watch this film soon!

  • #6

    Martine (Wednesday, 10 August 2016 10:13)

    Truth be told, post-apocalyptic movies like this freak me out. Haha! But I like that it's about the conflict, the thought experiments, the "what if" situations. It reminds me of those times I ask myself seemingly impossible questions, and trying to find logical answers. I wonder: How big are the brains of these guys? Haha!

  • #7

    Chris (Wednesday, 10 August 2016 18:17)

    I'm a huge movie buff and this is now on my "to watch" list thanks to you! :)