Different Visions of the Society, Its Functions and Perspectives as Presented in the Book Utopia by Thomas More, the Film Gosford Park Directed by Robert Altman and the Film The Beach Directed by Danny Boyle

Table of Contents
Three different visions of society
Techniques and methods used by the authors
Society and its Citizens through the eyes of More, Boyle and Altman

The problem of the creating of an ideal society has occupied the minds of the people through the centuries. Thinkers, philosophers, politicians and artists gave different visions of the idea of ideal society. Different authors used different means and techniques to bring their ideas to the audience. Despite the difference in the means choices all the authors who ever wrote about the society and its citizens had one and ultimate aim –they wanted to make this society better. This is true to the works, the book Utopia by Thomas More, the film Gosford Park directed by Robert Altman and The film The Beach directed by Danny Boyle, analyzed in this works. The authors of these works give their own, unique visions of the society with its problems, vices and pitfalls.
Three different visions of society
The meaning of the word Utopia has gained a negative connotation nowadays. The term is used to describe unrealistic projects or plans, which are not likely to become true. Originally the term drives from the name of the popular work under the same title written by Thomas More. The work belongs to the period of English Renaissance. Literary the term means “nowhere” and Thomas More used it to describe an ideal land where everybody is happy. Sad irony is in fact that perfect land exists nowhere. The work is written in a form of a dialog between two characters, Raphael Hythloday and More himself. Hythloday describes his journey to the ideal land. In the society described by More people live in ideal society and everyone is happy. Men are farming and leaning trades, boys are following their fathers, women make easy work, which doesn’t require physical strength, etc. The Utopian society described the principles of modern socialism as all the citizens of the country worked in equal conditions and were paid accordingly. Such a work division was described as extremely effective and productive.
The film called The Beach is another attempt to describe an ideal society. The film was directed by Danny Boyle and it went on screens in 2000. The movie is composed of two parts, which create an antithesis. The first part is a romantic story of search for ideal land, search for the ideal place to live. The protagonist Richard arrives to Bangkok in search for the adventures and receives a secrete map of the lost island. Soon he meets new friends and together they start looking for a wonderful beach surrounded by the sea nobody knows about. Finally they succeed in their search and find an international community of young travelers living in a distanced island nobody knows about. Very soon they realize that ideal place seems a paradise only from the first sight. The protagonist meets a lot of internal and internal conflict on this “ideal” place.
Gosford Park is another movie concerned with the issue of ideal society. The movie is set up in 1932 and tells about an elite party of eclectic public which takes place in the luxurious mansion.
Formally the murder which occurs after the splendid dinner is a central theme of the plot. In reality the movie is a deep survey of the English social system of the beginning of the 20th century. Complicated social hierarchy is presented in all its splendor and the audience has a rare opportunity to see the way the members of this hierarchy interact with each other during the weekend they spend in the country house. Two different worlds – higher British society and servants meet together and overlap in this film. This gives the authors the opportunity to show vices and counterparts of the British society of the time described.
Techniques and methods used by the authors
More’s work is full of wit and is rich with metaphors. He uses these techniques in order to deliver his message to the readers. Nicolas Paine described his work as a masterpiece of wit, written by a man who knew the world, and sent forth this book, inspired by Colet and Erasmus, not as a sure prophecy of the form civilization must take in a thousand years or less, but as a quickener of human sympathy and a stimulus for thought and faith in man (Gilman, 353).
Utopia is a complicated literary work. Wit and irony are used to describe the social life of the Sixteenth Century. More mocked and scoffed at the contemporary society. Utopia is a written in a form of the converse of three characters. At times More’s style can be difficult for comprehension, as it becomes hard to define whether the authors is mocking or speaks seriously. “For undoubtedly he beside his learning had a great wit, but it was so mingled with taunting and mocking that it seemed to them that best knew him, that he thought nothing to be well spoken except he had ministered some mock in the communication.” (Wegemer)
The book is written in a form of a dialog. Such an unusual form gave the author additional opportunities in delivering his message to the readers. Three people, who have a dialog about Utopia, present different points of view on the subject, discuss possible pitfalls and answer possible questions which may arise. Such a form makes the narration vivid and bright and makes the reader involved into the conversation. The reader becomes the invisible participant of the dialog. The society described in the book is well thought by the author. He spent much time thinking about the society, which would give the opportunity to escape vices caused by ill human nature. Individual interests are subdued to the interests of the society as a whole.
The Beach tells about the illusiveness of the paradise on the Earth and discovers the themes of human nature, which always spoils even the most ideal undertakings. The authors of the movie use the language of the metaphor and include a lot of Biblical motives in the subject of the film. The authors show the way the society passes from loud words and nice ideals to hatred and violence and they also show the way the protagonist meets this changes. In the movie we see both an utopian ideal land and the back side of living there at the same time. The authors use contrast and opposition in order to narrate their story.
The Gosford Park is interesting because it shows the transitional period of the British history. The decline of the British Empire has changed a lot of destinies and we can see the effects of this changes reflected in the movie. Light, setting and muted colors help to create the necessary atmosphere of decline and ruing of the old way of life. The authors managed to show the way the life of many characters has been basically transformed during the one weekend. It’s necessary to keep in mind that these changes occur shadowed by the major changes in the political and social life of the country. Strong social order and hierarchy slowly became rudiments same as they did in the movie. Such changes proclaimed the beginning of the new era.
Society and its Citizens through the eyes of More, Boyle and Altman
More tried to prove in his work that ideal society can be constructed not only out of ideal people. He states that even ordinary people can live in ideal society if this society is well constructed. The people are left little freedom in the Utopian society. Despite they possess certain freedoms and liberties these privileges are conditional as they can not even leave the cities without the permission of the prince. People in such a type of society are left little moral and ethical choices. The main their choice is to follow the order and regulation of the society they have once created. People in the described society are conscious and obey all social rules and regulations. Citizens of the prosperous cities voluntary help those who are in need sending supplies to them. The society is constructed in such a way that it fulfills a basic socialist principle where everybody works as he is able and gets as much as he needs. The effectiveness of work is also provided by the system of punishment. This is explained by the fact that Utopia can be an ideal land but it doesn’t mean that only ideal people inhabit it. The author points out to the possible pitfall of such a time of society but his interlocutor Hytholoday refutes them.
In The Beach the group of people lead secluded life on the secret isle far away from civilization. People who live there are close to nature and from the first sight it seems that they live in peace and harmony. It seems that they managed to create an ideal community. The huge field of marijuana is only one of pleasant surprises, which Richard find on this Island. Ideal life soon turns to be an illusion and paradise turns to hell. The ideal existence is broken by internal and external forces. Richard is attracted to Francoise, his friend’s girlfriend and starts an argument with the girl who governs the island and her boyfriend. Sal who runs the community is threatened by external interference and is ready to sacrifice anything for the sake of conspiracy. The price becomes too high sometimes. “In the perfect beach resort, nothing is allowed to interrupt the pursuit of pleasure, not even dying.” The community represents a micromodel of the society and on the example of this community we can see how unwillingness to change can give a start to nazism. Betray, hatred and isolation turn the paradise to hell and the main character starts seeking the ways to escape it. Richard can not enjoy the paradise he’s found and it’s his own mind, who prevents him from reaching the happiness which seemed to be so close. The protagonist becomes obsessed by his own fears. One of the main themes of the movie is the way ill human nature prevents people from being happy and spoils the most ideal perspectives. “As Richard quickly learns, though you may be able to get man out of civilization, it is difficult to get the civilization out of man.”( Leong)
In Gosford Park servants, who are addressed by the names of their masters and seat at the same hierarchical order as their masters do, and other minor details give the idea about inequality of the society presented in the movie. Stupid rituals, which are played among the groups of people, and established order are broken by the sudden murder. “This is no less than a comedy about selfishness, greed, snobbery, eccentricity and class exploitation, and Altman is right when he hopes people will see it more than once; after you know the destination the journey is transformed.“(Ebert)
The book and two movies are very different. They differ in their structure, in the range of themes they touch, in them methods used by the authors. There is one thing, which unties them all. All three pieces of art present the view and analyses of the social structure. In Utopia by Thomas More it’s an ideal society described like an example to follow. In The Beach the ideal society is described like a thing which can not be achieved and which is always spoilt by ill human nature. The Gosford Park gives a perfect account of the British complicated social hierarchy and the type of relations, which existed inside of it in the period between the two world wars. Despite so many differences all three works try to answer the questions about the ways to make the society better and to means to make the society to serve for good al all its citizens.

1. Gerard B. Wegemer, Thomas More on Statesmanship (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996), p. 13
2. http://www.thebeachmovie.com/
3. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0280707/
4. Gilman, P. Nicholas. Socialism and the American spirit. New York: Houghton, Mifflin and. Company, 1893.
5. Leong, Anthony, The Beach Movie Review http://www.geocities.com/aleong1631/beach.phpl
6. Ebert, Roger. Gosford Park / January 1, 2002


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