Ethereal Presence in THE HOST
For My Delicate Rose,
Years after humanity stopped polluting the world, the skies have cleared up. Ian O’Shea (Jake Abel) takes Wanda (Saoirse Ronan) outside the caverns. She didn’t realize they were up on the canyons high above the deserts below. From here the night sky is clear, an infinite number of stars shine. Ian finally tells Wanda he loves her. Wanda replies, “I love you too Ian.” He feels the reluctance in her voice, “You have two minds about it?” Wanda talks about the other being inside her, “She’s in love with Jared. This body loves him.”
THE HOST is based on the work of Stephenie Meyers, which is a departure from the usual ‘Twilight’ series, which she is famous for. It may open her fan base even more from just teen audiences to science fiction fans. Writer director Andrew Niccol adapted the novel for the screen along with Meyers. Niccol wrote the screenplay for THE TRUMAN SHOW with Jim Carrey and GATTACA with Ethan Hawke.
Niccol’s films have always dealt with the individual’s relationship or conflict with society. There are a lot of insights with his work. For example how modern society is obsessed with celebrity and media, how a show is able to purchase the rights of filming the entire life of a person, TRUMAN SHOW. GATTACA deals with the complexities and moral questions of genetics and (un) natural selection.
THE HOST in this case was a great material for Niccol to work with, in spite of the teenybopper, adolescent, romance fluff that TWILIGHT series was known for. Meyers wrote a very compelling and interesting novel in the sci-fi tradition at the same time, she is able to write a moving love story.
Central to the film is casting the lead character in Melanie/Wanda. This is where Soairse Ronan comes in and takes over with her exceptional uncharacteristic acting abilities for someone so young. Her name is pronounced sir-sha like the word inertia. Soairse means freedom in Irish. Her look has a mysterious and ethereal quality perfect for the role. She has that small thin lips and narrow, graceful jaw line that emphasizes femininity and innocence. Yet her expressive eyes give her a very soulful quality. In the Philippines she has similar features with international artist Michelle Pauline Lim. Ronan’s features attracted LOTR director Peter Jackson to cast her in LOVELY BONES another film based on a novel, this time by Alice Sebold.
Both THE HOST and LOVELY BONES deal with human consciousness and the soul but are vastly different movies. Soairse very ably lent a convincing performance in both films. Although she was the lead character in LOVELY BONES, Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg got the top billing. THE HOST shows her skills as the true lead.
THE HOST is similar in concept with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS a true science fiction classic that has had film versions since the 1956, 1978, 1993 and as late as 2007 (The Invasion). This is where aliens take over earth by creating clones and passing themselves off as humans. The key difference here is that the aliens invade the human body and take over the minds with glowing pupils as indication of the presence. Also the aliens here are supposed to have an almost benign purpose of improving the planet or repairing the destruction that humans have wrought the earth.
The ‘war’ here between humans and aliens is not as black and white as it is in other sci-fi films. Melanie is the human character that an alien called ‘Wanderer’ occupies. Since Melanie is this strong willed person her consciousness is able to stay in her body in spite of Wanderer occupying it. At times Melanie is able to wrest control of her physical body. This is where Soairse’s complex acting is very much in use, two minds in one body.
Casting William Hurt as an inventor and leader of human resistance Jeb was also important. Hurt has a wide experience in the sci-fi genre: ALTERED STATES, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, LOST IN SPACE etc. Jeb asked the most important questions to Wanderer which he changed to Wanda for short. He couldn’t resist asking the fundamental questions that we’ve had with intelligent life in the universe. It was the only real chance for humans to interact with the aliens without having their consciousness removed and invaded by an alien being.
How many planets are out there that sustain life? Why did they invade the earth? As far as they know there are only 12 planets that sustain life in the known universe. And they ‘invade’ planets to help and sustain life especially when humans have destroyed the environment and can’t exist without violence and inequality. The aliens basically cleaned the planet up, ended hunger, crime and war. As a rule the aliens known as souls, do not lie, mistrust or harm each other.
It is in this context that Wanda has a love triangle. Melanie truly was in love with Jared (Max Irons) who looks like a young Freddie Prinze Jr. until the aliens got to her. Now as Wanda she falls for Ian (Jake Abel). International supermodel turned actress Diane Kruger plays The Seeker. Screenwriter/Director Andrew Niccol was able to condense a 600 page novel into a very entertaining, exciting and moving film which helps us think about the most important questions. Can a person love someone separate from his or her body? How can you love an intelligent being not of your species? Will we get our acts together and repair what we’ve done on this one planet we live in?