Manipulation in Film

We consider the theme of manipulation in film, looking at movies such as Nineteen-Eighty Four and The Matrix.

Being a brand of social influence, manipulation has played a large part in the history of cinema – whether it be maneuvering the minds of spectators in order to exhibit the influence films contain or exploiting the brains of the characters themselves as a way of displaying certain abusive or deceptive tactics that are explored in the plot. Dystopian worlds are a way of exhibiting different realities and exploring diverse societies that are exploited by deceptive or cruel mind control – the following films outline the power of manipulation presented in film.  They show the volume in which the abuse of power can be misused and what that can do to an oppressed society.


Nineteen-Eighty Four (1984)

The year is 1984 and Oceania (officially known as Great Britain) is a totalitarian state dictated by the deceptive and malicious political system called Ingsoc. It is a world of universal government scrutiny and mind control is an everyday thing – all taking place under the watchful eye of the Inner Party and the nameless Big Brother who establishes himself as a god-like figure through tyranny and exploitation. Nineteen-Eighty Four is a faultless example of abuse of power – Big Brother is used to maintain control within the citizens of this dystopian world. All public thinkers and rebels are prosecuted in a vicious circle of continuous brainwashing and murder.


Dogtooth (2009)

Living behind an enormous compound a mother and a father have never allowed their three children to step outside of the safe haven that they have manufactured for them. The two have preserved them from the outside world and damaged their vocabulary – making them believe that certain words mean different things, the children think that a zombie is a yellow flower. This type of manipulation and abuse caused by controlling parent’s manifests when the children get older and discover snippets of the world they scarcely know of causing for the normality in their lives to drastically change.


The Matrix (1999)

A future where everything seems normal, everything has a routine but turns out it’s just the Matrix. The Matrix is a world in which the human race is manipulated by a simulated reality generated by a bunch of really clever robots who wish to subdue humanity and use the bodies as an energy source. The only way to escape the ‘dream’ realm is to be unplugged and join a separate world of rebels who dedicate their lives to ending the domination of these ruthless machines.


The Village (2004)

In this small 19th century village lives an isolated group of people who live in terror of the creatures that dwell within the woods that surround them. The Elders of the village are solely responsible for the creation of this false reality – the monsters are used as a scare tactic to keep the villagers in place. The fact that the village was formed shows the brutality the outside world has done to the founders of the village – in turn making them completely separate themselves and their children from the aggression and pain that is beyond the woods.


Often in films like these, the manipulation tactic is clear – supplying the person wielding the manipulation and mind control with a great deal of power which creates conformity. The reason for such open mind control in film is to demonstrate to the audience how easily a society can be influenced by a powerful being. In these films fear is cleverly used to obtain obedience amongst societies and they confirm how easily the mind can be exploited – they show how effortless it is to brainwash a group of people and make them believe absolutely anything with the use of fear. In the adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four the governing party gain compliance by completely shattering the susceptible minds of these individuals, making them believe what they want them to believe. The manipulation runs so deep that the freedom to say 2+2 = 4 is met with torture.

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