Film: Love and Free Will Challenge Fate in the Adjustment Bureau

Adjustment TeamWe did not have any conceptions about the film "The Adjustment Bureau" when we saw it on Cedar Lane in Teaneck this week. We only knew that friends thought it was a good flick.

It turns out that we loved the film. The concept of religion it projected was 100% from what we call the "scribal archetype" - religion here was a big corporation run by managers and accountants. And the kicker for us was that in the film, "love" provided the great challenge to the Bureau's carefully laid out plans. Scribes know about love - and they do want it to motivate your faith, not challenge it. So this high concept film worked for me.

The film is based on a 1954 science fiction story by Philip K. Dick, "The Adjustment Team" which you can read here. The trailer is below.

Terry Mattingly reviewed the film for the Scripps Howard News Service. Here is part of what he said about it:
...The movie centers on David Norris (Damon), a congressman from New York City who meets a mysterious ballet dancer on the night of a crushing political defeat (tzvee notes: in this role she is a modern dancer, not a ballet dancer and there is a big difference).

Neither knows that higher powers were at work, since this brief encounter was orchestrated by "agents of fate" from the supernatural bureau that constantly adjust the details of people's lives to keep them in line. At the top of this hierarchy is a godlike figure -- "The Chairman."

These guardian angels in business suits and fedoras watch the unfolding maps of people's lives on devices that resemble GPS units crossed with tablet computers. When needed, they can -- within boundaries set by their Higher Power -- intervene to force people back onto their predestined path.

In this case, Norris was supposed to forget the dancer and proceed with his life. But something happened and the two fell in love. Then their paths kept crossing, even though these encounters are not on their life maps. Is this mere chance, karma or free will? Is the Chairman intervening to bring them together? Are moviegoers watching John Calvin caught in "The Matrix," wrestling with caseworkers from "Men in Black"?

"It's certainly not accidental," according to Michael Hackett, one of the producers, "that 'The Adjustment Bureau,' distilled to its purest form, echoes a number of the great belief systems around the world, religious or otherwise."

While the film draws on a wide range of religious influences, Nolfi stressed that he worked hard to avoid specifics that would drive away any one flock of believers. Nevertheless, there was no way to avoid the ultimate God question.

"You know, good and evil don't mean much if you don't have any free will," he said. "Yet any conception of an all-powerful and all-knowing Higher Power that is also good. ... "

The director left the rest of that sentence hanging. "You kind of hit the shoals there, of explaining things and making them all fit together," he continued. "There are unanswerable questions. I mean, they are questions of faith -- literally."

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