Sunday, April 12, 2020

Timely Morality Play

One of the benefits of the current quarantine is my access to a wide array of resources on the internet. YouTube has given me hours of music, comedy, and inspiration. And by accident, I found on Amazon prime video a 2015 film from the BBC, "An Inspector Calls."

This play from 1945 is set in 1912 but remains timely in 2020 with its powerful message that we are responsible for each other.  J. B. Priestley's play is an indictment of upper middle class hypocrisy and economic injustice, as he focuses on a smug Edwardian family, each member of which is implicated in the death by suicide of a young woman.

I watched this film mesmerized not only by the strong performances but by the suspense and the morality play-like force of this brilliant production, as a mysterious Inspector questions and judges each member of the family.  Is he really a  police inspector? This remains a minor issue as we watch the self-satisfied characters squirm as they face the issue of their shared guilt in the death of the young woman.

That we have a shared moral obligation for one another, that we are not isolated individuals but part of a community is something many today, anxious and worried about the virus epidemic, are learning the hard way.  Our lives are not merely about us--not merely in biological terms but in moral and social terms, as we see many people today losing jobs and income, being denied unemployment compensation, and lacking adequate health care.

The pain of injustice and the need for communal responsibility are unforgettably portrayed in "An Inspector Calls," which I highly recommend.

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