//“Making Children Disappear Is The War We Wage With God”

“Making Children Disappear Is The War We Wage With God”

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Prisoners-1EDITORIAL – Themes in Prisoners include religion and spirituality, the dynamics of family, and pursuit. We find religious and spiritual symbols throughout the film in a tattoo of a cross or a necklace and also in the allusions to passages in the Bible, while the dynamics of family and pursuit can be interpreted in many ways. However, a general comparison of the three main families portrayed in the film will equip the viewer with enough evidence to spark a discussion.

Although the third family may not be as front and center to the audience (Mrs. McGillan and Alex) as the other two families (of Anna and Joy), we are able to compare and contrast all three. In the families of Anna and Joy both fathers are united when their daughters are taken by another family’s “mother.” Whereas many mothers (including Joy’s and Anna’s) are normally found to be nurturing and giving, these two families are starkly contrasted against Mrs. McGillian (a mother by deceit) who connects both families through her spiritual beliefs as well as through pursuit. Ironically, the religious aspects of the film can also be considered in the light of family as well. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirt which are often called on in many times by this film whether it be in prayer, symbol, or in person (the Priest is called Father) these religious aspects also bear a striking resemblance to a fourth family and could be contrasted with the others. Whereas one Father willingly sacrifices his child, another can’t bear to see theirs go, while yet another is strangely obsessed with everyone else’s child.

The most convicting and confusing character in Prisoners is Mrs. McGillan. An elderly woman who isn’t considered a threat until she is literally holding a gun in her hand, Mrs. McGillan becomes a third act surprise. The only ideal she seems to share with the families of Anna and Joy is the thrill of the chase. The thrill of the chase for the families of Anna and Joy is found in hopefully finding their children; however, the thrill of the chase for Mrs. McGillan is in finding children to take. But why? Her charming spirituality?

Surprisingly, this modern film is very biblically based. This spiritual connection is apparent from the very beginning of the film as well as the thrill of the chase. In the opening scene, we hear Keller (Anna’s father) saying the Lord’s Prayer as he hunts a deer–combining both spirituality as well as the thrill of the chase. Throughout Prisoners, there are more references to further cement the religious theme. Priests, biblical statues, a cross tattoo on Detective Loki’s hand, a cross hanging from the rearview mirror in Keller’s truck, as well as a cross necklace hanging from Keller’s neck all combine for what seems like an answer to the viewer’s question: what is Mrs. McGillan’s motive?

“Making children disappear is the war we wage with God” is the explanation Mrs. McGillan gives to Keller as she prepares to stash him away. Let’s follow this quote in two different Prisoners-2directions. One might argue that she wages a war with God, as in begins a war with him, by taking children from the parents God has given them; but one might also argue that, by using the preposition “with,” she is implying that the two (God and herself) are working together to make children disappear (God by taking children from the physical world due to death and herself due to kidnapping). Although Mrs. McGillan is skillfully cryptic upon answering the viewer’s question while simultaneously confirming her guilt, this is the only quote the viewer has which artfully combines all three major themes. In order to make children disappear, she must chase them. By implying that she does so because of some sort of spiritual relationship with God and his family, she confirms why each family’s relationship with spirituality has played such a big role in the movie.

Whatever the theory of the individual viewer, all of these themes are combined through the irony, as well as possible paradox, of this one sentence. Therefore, I pose the question to the viewer. Have you seen the film? What do you feel to be the purpose of this quote?