Science Fiction

Vonnegut on Film


Clocking in at just 25 minutes, Chandler Tuttle's film 2081 captures the spare brutality of Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron," a tale about a world in which, thanks to "the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General…everybody was finally equal." Equal not just in opportunity or wealth but in capability as well.

In Vonnegut's story, Harrison Bergeron is a brilliant, massive 14-year-old freak driven to delusions of grandeur by the shackles, weights, and disfiguring uniform he is forced to wear to ensure that his abilities do not exceed anyone else's. In the visually arresting 2081, he is a smoldering, kohl-eyed convict, full of koans and confidence.

The film features an elegant score by the Kronos Quartet. In it a single cello swoops and falls, voicing the despairing cry of a gifted individual in a dystopia that values only homogeneity. —Katherine Mangu-Ward