Like the book, the movie, as social commentary, suggests the modern-secular self is already largely zombie. Early in the film, R walks through the airport with a bunch of zombies sitting around or bumping into each other. He recounts an earlier, better time, when humanity meaningfully interacted with others—the scene shows an airport full of people absorbed by their electronic devices bumping into each other like zombies.
The Need for Connection
Many zombies have gathered at the airport—airports are about waiting, and they are all waiting for something. R tells us what he’s waiting for: “I just want to connect.”
This desire is reflected in his collection. R collects a lot of things, and, from what we are shown, everything reflects this craving for connection. Every slide in the stereoscope shows a boy interacting meaningfully with a girl. The snow globe he acquires on the same excursion on which he acquires Julie presents lovers holding hands on a footbridge. And all the songs we hear from his record collection are about missing someone.
The connection issue is shown in the community of the Living as well. Their major project involves the construction of a huge wall to separate the Living from the Dead. Lead by Julie’s father, the Living strive for the symbol of division.
Like the figures in the snow globe, R and Julia supply the bridge between the Living and the Dead.
When the zombies see R and Julia holding hands, they are profoundly affected–the cure has begun. R describes the effect of the gesture when he says, “Julie and I were giving the others hope.” All this is a lot of fun. I enjoyed the movie, but, sadly, they resorted to mere convention.
Love Does it Again
This is where, disappointingly, the movie takes a significantly different approach to the cure than does the book.
In the book, romantic love is metonymy; it is one of several things that represents all things transcendent, like beauty, soul, and mystery. Not so with the movie; here the cure is simply romantic love. All the indicators of “true love” are present: hand holding, kissing, accelerated pulse, the inability to look away when her shirt is off and taking stupid risks, not to mention a literal balcony scene.
This is not a surprising solution to the zombie problem. Mainstream movies almost always solve all their problems with romantic love. It is able to overcome all barriers of social class, age, race and ethnicity, and personal conflicts. Why not overcome death?In Warm Bodies, the movie, romantic love is salvation. Not a surprise given it overcomes every other barrier: social class, age, race and ethnicity, and species. Why not overcome death? Click To Tweet
I was a little disappointed at this, for it seems like a cheap solution, especially when the book offered romantic love as one of the means, rather than the end in itself.
In the end, we are asked to put our faith in romantic love, for only this is powerful enough to “exhume the world.”
Where the book hints that we need to recover of a view of reality beyond philosophical materialism, the movie suggests romantic love is the solution to all our problems. This is not to condemn the film, I actually enjoyed it, it just means it is a romantic comedy — and little more.
Next Zombie post: Nazi Zombies