Despite its flaws, Alex Proyas’ Knowing ended up being a fascinating film, with a cool sci-fi bent and some interesting ideas about faith. I was so taken aback by the film and its audacious ending that I held an impromptu /Filmcast, where we all tried to make sense of what the movie was all supposed to mean (and determine whether or not the film was actually any good).
/Filmcast listener Ned wrote in a detailed response to that podcast episode, in which he relates various elements of the film to Biblical prophecy. I don’t think I would make all the connections that he made, but I found his e-mail pretty thought-provoking nonetheless (especially from a Christian standpoint, as faith plays a huge part in the film). I’m republishing the e-mail here in its entirety, with his permission. If you ever have any interesting and in-depth interpretations of recent/classic films that you want to share, always feel free to e-mail me at slashfilmcast(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Who knows? Maybe it’ll end up on the site one day.
For obvious reasons, everything after the jump and the comments should be considered a SPOILER-FILLED zone. Continue at your own risk.
I recently listened to the /Film podcast discussing the ending of Alex Proyas’ Knowing, and I wanted to jot down a few thoughts that I had on the film. Hopefully this will clarify some of the questions that you posed during the podcast or, at least, add to the discussion of possibilities.
I believe that, ultimately, Knowing is a film about the scientific ramifications of Biblical prophecy, and what it would mean to be a prophet (in the Old Testament sense) in the modern day world (perhaps that’s why it’s called Knowing?).
There’s a scene towards the end of the film when Cage’s character begins to remember all of the Biblical things that his father taught him, and has a conversation with him concerning “prophecies.” Here are some of that things that, by deduction, Cage’s character may have recalled from his father’s teachings:
1. Whispers to children
In 1 Samuel 3, there is an account of Samuel, one of the Old Testament prophets, being called by God as a boy. However, Eli, the priest, is in the room right next to him, and cannot hear the voice of God. This is, perhaps, the origin of the idea of “whispers” being spoken directly into the ears of “chosen children,” and the adults right near them not being able to hear.
2. Ezekiel’s Wheel and the calling of Prophets
Ezekiel chapter 1 gives a pretty close description of what happens at the end of the film:
As I looked, I saw a great storm coming from the north, driving before it a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light. There was fire inside the cloud, and in the middle of the fire glowed something like gleaming amber. From the center of the cloud came four living beings that looked human, 6 except that each had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight, and their feet had hooves like those of a calf and shone like burnished bronze. Under each of their four wings I could see human hands. So each of the four beings had four faces and four wings. The wings of each living being touched the wings of the beings beside it. Each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.
Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. Each had two pairs of outstretched wings—one pair stretched out to touch the wings of the living beings on either side of it, and the other pair covered its body. They went in whatever direction the spirit chose, and they moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.
The living beings looked like bright coals of fire or brilliant torches, and lightning seemed to flash back and forth among them. And the living beings darted to and fro like flashes of lightning.
As I looked at these beings, I saw four wheels touching the ground beside them, one wheel belonging to each. The wheels sparkled as if made of beryl. All four wheels looked alike and were made the same; each wheel had a second wheel turning crosswise within it. The beings could move in any of the four directions they faced, without turning as they moved. The rims of the four wheels were tall and frightening, and they were covered with eyes all around.
The verses go on to describe something similar to the drawing that Lucinda was said to have stared at for hours on end in the film:
However, Proyas obviously took some liberties with this vision, while maintaining much of what makes it rather terrifying and interesting.
Ezekiel chapter 2 deals with what it means to be a prophet of God:
“Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.”
Perhaps this is what drove Lucinda insane? Perhaps she was supposed to tell people what she saw, and she didn’t? I tend to believe that this is why she scrawled “EVERYBODY ELSE” all over the underside of the bed; she knew, and yet she chose to hole herself up in her trailer and hide from the world instead of telling what she knew.
Another interesting possibility with this film is the idea that, perhaps, Lucinda may, at some point, have had a similar vision to Ezekiel’s. Could this be why she stared at the picture all the time?
3. The Numbers
There is a popular theory which purports that Bible itself contains a series of numerical codes that, when broken down, prophecy significant cultural events. Perhaps this is the origin of Proyas’ use of numbers as a prophesying device. If angels were to have dictated the Bible to human prophets, one could imagine this being one way in which that could have happened.
4. The Destruction of the Earth by Fire and the Creation of a New Earth
There is precedence in the Bible for the destruction of Earth by fire (Revelation 14:18, 2 Peter 3:7) and the creation of a new Earth (Revelation 21:1, 2 Peter 3:13). Of course, the Bible presents these things in a much more cryptic and allegorical way.. Proyas’ film, perhaps, attempts to come up with a more scientific way in which the Earth could be destroyed with fire.
I don’t claim to believe Proyas’ vision of what these Biblical passages could mean, but I feel that the film definitely asks a lot of interesting questions (maybe more questions than answers).
Hope this helps you find some meaning in the film….