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Film Review: Volition - A Film that Demands a Radical Choice

Tue Nov 25, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

By John Jalsevac

(To watch Volition, go to: http://www.thedoorpost.com/hope/film/?film=420351f1aefa2b42b1772fe9d5cc044a)

November 25, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Tim and Matthew Morgan have somehow produced a first-class short film that masterfully deals with the taboo issue of abortion despite working with a budget that would pay for approximately thirty seconds of a Hollywood blockbuster. "Volition," first created for a short film competition, is as yet unknown, but will soon, I predict, become very well known indeed, as it very well should.

Volition is an astonishing achievement. The film itself is not made any greater by the fact that Tim Morgan, who directed it, is only 23-years-old, and that his brother, who composed all of the music, is only 20-years-old, but the ages of the brothers does help put the scope of their accomplishment into even greater relief.

Volition places its central character, who goes unnamed, in the historical contexts of what the filmmakers clearly believe to be three of the greatest human rights violations in history: the holocaust, slavery, and abortion. In each the protagonist is placed in a position of some authority, with the promise of more to come: in the first, we find him in the role of a Nazi who is being considered for a promotion; in the second, a respected American physician who has travelled to Africa and studied the blacks; and in the third, a promising medical student on scholarship whose girlfriend is pregnant.

The premise is as clever and well-executed as it is effective. It purpose is clear: by placing the same figure, presumably with the same sort of upbringing, and the same genetic and temperamental predispositions, into the crucible of extreme historical times that demand a response, we may observe his choices, or, in other words, we may try his “volition.” 

As the synopsis of the film states, “Throughout history, men have been faced with difficult choices in a world that makes it easy for them to conform. This film explores the hope that lies behind every decision made in the face of adversity; the hope that is buried in the heart of those that look beyond themselves and see something bigger worth fighting for.”

The protagonist is scripted as the perfectly volatile figure, the man who walks on the razor’s edge: young, handsome, intelligent and capable, he is being embraced by the establishment in each historical age, invited by those who control the power and the prestige to climb the ranks and enjoy the benefits with them.

But in each vignette he is caught between two alternatives that are so dramatically mutually opposed that they demand a radical choice. He cannot not act. The times are too extreme, the choices too stark. When presented with the holocaust one must choose the holocaust, or rebel against it. And so too, the film argues, with slavery and abortion. Passivity is not only cowardly, but signals tacit acceptance and by default makes one a co-conspirator with the prevailing spirit of the age.

Luke Williams, the unknown actor who plays the lead, was a spectacular find; he has the perfect face for the role – haunting and deeply expressive - and he uses it well. It is a great credit to Tim Morgan, who wrote the script, that he provides the opportunity for Williams to do so by avoiding the commonest and most annoying error of the amateur screenwriter – to pack the script with dialogue.

In “Volition” dialogue is scarce, and what dialogue there is, is strictly necessary. Instead the carefully constructed and deeply moving visuals, undergirded by Matthew Morgan’s first-rate soundtrack, are what carries this short film through to its conclusion. The efficiency of the Morgan brothers is breathtaking - they expertly weave together and develop three separate story lines, while creating an intimate knowledge of the main characters, and all in a mere fifteen minutes or so. 

A fascinating element of the film is that we are not shown the protagonist’s final choice either in Nazi Germany, or in the American, pre-Civil War South. It is made clear in both cases that he is deeply divided and dissatisfied with what he is being asked to participate in. And in each case he is brought to the breaking point, as the full cruelty and inhumanness of the age is suddenly brought to bear upon him. But that is where the viewer leaves him – in one case, as a Nazi soldier, suffering a heart-rending emotional breakdown, and in the other, looking on with clenched jaw as a black child is beaten outside his window. Where he goes from there, we do not know.

It is as if because Nazism and slavery are closed chapters in history, they can no longer be altered. Instead the protagonist is left in his state of tortured tension, unable to choose, unable to act, his will frozen in the immovable past.

It is different in the case of abortion, however. Because abortion is ongoing, because his choice is presented in the here and now, the protagonist can change the course of events. And, of course, in the end he does make such a choice, though I will not say what it is. In that sense the protagonist serves as a symbol for those who are watching the film: those who are alive now and cannot, therefore, do anything about either the holocaust or slavery, but who can still make a decision in regards to abortion.

The sheer beauty and artistry of “Volition,” the excruciating attention to detail evidenced in every shot, and the emphasis on the human story over its moral, ensures that those who watch the film must, like its protagonist, respond with a choice. They cannot, no matter how much they disagree with its message at first glance, write it off as a boring, or unbelievable, or crude attempt at making a piece of pro-life propaganda and leave it at that. The film demands that the viewer either choose to go along with the parallelism, to accept the similarity between the three great human rights violations, or either reject it - to watch passively is impossible. Either the current situation with abortion is like these past cruelties, in which case it must be vigorously opposed with the full powers of the mind and body, or it is an entirely new situation. But either way, Volition ensures that its viewers cannot ignore the question as unimportant.

(To watch Volition, go to: http://www.thedoorpost.com/hope/film/?film=420351f1aefa2b42b1772fe9d5cc044a)

To find out more about Tim and Matthew Morgan and their film company, go to: http://www.rockyfarmstudio.com/

The brothers can be reached at: [email protected]


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