A buried page of numbers reveals that the world is determined, plotted and planned and calculated and destined to end. John Koestler realizes that it is plotted to end SOON, and even finds a “wall of weird” with clippings by the writer of those numbers; amongst all the speculation, it spotlights the prophet Ezekiel’s wheel and Biblical prophecy. As if all this wasn’t enough to stir the judgement day juices and make KNOWING a film that uses sci-fi as a narrative vehicle to wrestle with God’s existence and the End of Days, it goes one step further and suggests that forces are in play calling people to a better place.
As John uses his incredible mind to logically extrapolate what is going on, his son Caleb is having nightmarish dreams and visions. As the little girl who wrote the numbers years ago, he is hearing whispers and voices. While his dad doesn’t hear the voices, he realizes it is more than childish fantasy when he sees the strange, haunting figures shadowing them as they unravel the mystery.
From The Last Starfighter to The Matrix, we have a shared passion for a story in which there is a world beyond this one, a resolute Morpheus calling us to wake up, a soft voice wooing us, or firm hand wrenching us out of the miasma of this existence, a Neverending Story(oooooh, oooooh, oooooooooh) where the bullies and the cancers and the fractured relationships and the wars and the heartache cease. John Koestler has lost any faith he might have had, depressed and rejecting that hope. He turns down his sisters offer to pray for him, severs the relationship with his pastor father. His son, however, exhibits signs as the movie continues that suggest otherwise. Something is watching, something is calling, something is drawing them… or some of them.
“They’ve been protecting us all along, Dad. They sent a message ahead of them to prepare the way and now they’re coming for us.”– Caleb Koestler, KNOWING
The silent, haunting figures that seem dangerous yet protective move through the cinematic landscape of KNOWING with an obvious parallel to angels, though much like the recent depiction of angels in the CW’s Supernatural, we’re not certain of their intentions OR their benevolence. They are frightening in their resolution. We are certain they have their eyes on John’s son, as well as other children, which makes the silents stalker motif and parenting instincts kick in, even for childless viewers. Over the course of the film, however, the children become reassured that everything is on the up and up.
“It’s time to go, Dad. They’ve chosen us so we can start over, so everything can start over.” (spoilers follow)
AH! The blessed reassurance that everything will be all right. If the film wanted to be sappy, everyone would get a free pass and a shiny new earth… and the looters, and theft, and rebellion and deceit and misery causing – everything that is also bottled up in our nightmarish nature – would get a pat on the head and paved over with a shiny new bicycle (RE: planet) courtesy of alien angels. KNOWING dares to go one step further and parallel another biblical idea: the one where not everyone receives grace.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – Jesus, John 6
John Koestler follows a harrowing course and desires to protect his son… but discovers in the end that something greater than he was looking out for him. Tragically, this discovery is soured when he realizes that his child will be saved… but he will not. It’s a bitter pill the film makes us swallow, considering the fact that a sovereign hand is at work and determines who will be saved from the apocalypse. All three pieces – predestination, apocalypse, and divine calling – spill out of the film as though John Calvin wrote the screenplay for Alex Proyas.
“I can’t go with you Caleb. They haven’t chosen us, Caleb, they’ve chosen you!” – John Koestler, KNOWING
As with all great science fiction, KNOWING makes us wrestle with haunting parallels to our reality. What if we’ve lost our childlike faith? What if there IS a guiding hand? What if the world WILL come to an end… and what is the distinction between those who are called out of it… and those who aren’t? After the children are rocket-raptured up in an extra-terrestrial Ezekiel wheel, John drives back through the rioting and mess of humankind, returning to his pastor dad and hugging him sadly. As his father reassures him that this isn’t the end, we see the ultimate meaning of the film’s title.
John Koestler replies solemnly “I know”. The question is, do WE?
“And calling to him a child, (Jesus) put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”
*Update: audio presentation on the film’s theme’s given to a live audience following a showing of the film available below.