The meaning of the film “Prisoners”
Two and a half hours of maximum tension – and an open ending, after which you want to brew a stronger coffee and once again scroll through the plot in your head in search of answers to questions. “Prisoners” is a film that is interesting to watch a second time, even knowing the denouement: details that were invisible during the first viewing suddenly surface. For those who are not yet ready for the second run and just want to understand what happened at the end, where there was a mysterious labyrinth and whether there is any subtext in all this – my analysis of the film “Prisoners”.
What is a maze
The maze is not a place or space, but a convoluted state of mind into which Holly Jones plunges kidnapped children. Detective Loki finds a collection of maze puzzles among the few personal belongings of Bobby Taylor. The cover reads: “Solve all the riddles and you can go home.” With the help of these puzzles, the Jones couple gain such mind control over the victims that the children can no longer return to their normal lives.
Bobby Taylor manages to escape the Jones’ house, but his mind still wanders through the maze. He paints the walls of his apartment with an endless maze in search of a way out. When Detective Loki asks Taylor to locate the children, Taylor replays the labyrinths from the problem book over and over. Both Bobby and Alex Jones perceive the maze as a real place. Remember Alex saying to Keller Dover, “They’re in a maze. You will find them there. ”
The maze is depicted on a medallion worn by Holly Jones’s husband. And the plot of the film “Prisoners” itself resembles a labyrinth. Two heroes, who are trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of children, wander through the labyrinth and many times find themselves in a dead end. At the beginning of the film, everyone believes that the children were kidnapped by Alex Jones, but he is unable to do so – a dead end. The investigation goes to Bobby Taylor, but he only imitates the actions of the criminal – a dead end. Keller Dover reveals Holly’s secret, but Holly disarms him and drives him into a trap – a dead end. Only detective Loki succeeds in finding the final exit from the maze.
The meaning of the name
The original title of the film is Prisoners . In English, this word has no gender indicators: it can be understood both as “captives”. Unfortunately, during the translation, part of the meaning was lost: they had to shift the focus entirely to the kidnapped girls and leave other Prisoners behind. Meanwhile, other characters in the film also end up in the conclusion, and more than once:
- Alex Jones (aka Barry Milland) is captured 4 times. For the first time – when the Jones couple kidnap him from his real mother. Then – when he is captured by the labyrinth, from where his consciousness can no longer get out. For the third time, he is imprisoned when he is caught by the police, led by detective Loki. Finally, he is captured by Keller Dover. In the finale, Alex is released: he remembers (at least partially) his real personality and returns to his mother.
- Bobby Taylor can be called a prisoner three times: first, he is imprisoned by the Jones, then in his own mind, and finally, under investigation. Bobby is the only character who never manages to get out of the maze.
- Keller Dover is captured twice. The first time he becomes hostage to his own idea is when he decides that Alex Jones is guilty of his daughter’s disappearance. He then becomes a prisoner in the real world, trapped by Holly Jones. In the finale, Keller will be released from internal captivity (more on this later). But physically, he will remain a prisoner: he will have to serve a sentence for the abduction of Alex.
As you can see, the meaning of the name is somewhat deeper than it seems at first glance. Prisoners are not only Anna and Joy, and captivity is not only and not so much a real imprisonment as a trap of consciousness.
The meaning of the ending Prisoners
To understand the meaning of the ending of the film Prisoners, you must first understand the image of the central character – Keller Dover. While audiences are clearly not on his side, the film’s plot is largely the story of Keller’s moral journey.
Notice how the image of Keller is outlined from the very first frames. He is emphatically religious, and this is noticeable in many details: reading a prayer, a wooden cross on the windshield, a fish (symbol of Christ) on the trunk of a car.
During the course of the story, Keller changes his role three times. At first he is a victim, his daughter was kidnapped by a criminal. But soon Keller himself becomes the kidnapper. It is no coincidence that the heroes of the film constantly repeat that Alex Jones has an IQ of 10. Keller demands an answer from him like an adult. Keller’s move puts him on a par with Holly Jones. Further history of Keller is a plunge deeper and deeper into darkness. He draws his friends into his crime, lies to detective Loki, and finally comes to Holly’s house, intending to torture her too. But Holly is prepared for his visit, and Keller becomes a victim again.
Keller’s conclusion is very symbolic. We learn that he spent three days underground before Detective Loki heard his whistle. That is how much time passed before Jesus was resurrected. Keller’s imprisonment underground also refers to the ancient initiation rites in occult communities: neophytes plunged into complete darkness for a long time in order to experience spiritual death and purification. This is exactly what happens to Keller, who spends three days alone with his guilt and anxiety for the fate of his daughter.
The moment of Keller’s release should symbolize his rebirth. But this very moment remains behind the scenes. In my opinion, this is an indication that the former Keller Dover is no longer there. We know the further development of events from the dialogue between detective Loki and Grace Dover. Keller will go to jail.
Thus, the ending of the film “Prisoners” shows the spiritual death of Keller Dover, but gives hope that the prisoner still repented of his deed. Also, the ending once again refers us to the title of the film: Keller goes to prison ( prison ) and becomes a prisoner ( prisoner ).
Good and bad topic
Of all the characters in the film, there are almost no definite “good” or “bad” characters. The only hero who has practically nothing to blame is detective Loki. The only heroes who do not evoke any sympathy are the Jones couple.
The Joneses are presented as absolute evil. In all other characters, evil manifests itself only as a reaction to the inhumanity of the Joneses. The next victim of the Joneses, who are “at war with God,” is Keller Dover. As unpleasant as this character is, it seems to me that he should not be perceived only as rude and aggressive. We are given to understand that Keller was mentally unstable even before the disappearance of his daughter. When he was a teenager, he survived the death of his father. This could not but leave an imprint in Keller’s memory. His religiosity borders on obsession; he raves about doomsday pictures and makes a refuge in the basement of his house. Keller is ready to “turn into a demon” from the very beginning, he is the ideal victim for Holly Jones.
The Birch family unwittingly becomes complicit in Keller’s crime. In my opinion, their guilt is heavier than that of Keller and the priest, since they fundamentally avoid making any decision, be it to turn Keller over to the police or join him. They are unable to take responsibility for these choices, but that does not make them more moral than Keller. They know about the evil that he did to Alex, but they prefer to remain silent. Their silence encourages Keller’s actions.
Although Keller is convinced of Alex’s guilt, he still hesitates. This is seen in the scene where Keller reads a prayer before going to his old house. He stumbles after the words “And forgive us our debts …”, since they are followed by “… just as we forgive our debtors.” This is what Keller cannot do — forgive.
In other important words, Keller says to Benjamin Birch: “He is no longer human. He stopped being him when he stole our daughters. ” Keller tries to dehumanize Alex in every way: he covers his face with a bag, locks him in a dark room, from where he is almost invisible. All of these techniques actually help Keller abstract away from the fact that Alex is still human.
If you have time, you can listen to a lecture by renowned psychologist Philip Zimbardo. He talks about how ordinary people can commit any atrocities if their enemy is dehumanized. This lecture may help you better understand Keller Dover’s train of thought.