Despite the range of possible interpretations inherent in apocalyptic literature, people have always wanted to see definite predictions in the text. But if we interpret these texts in ways that predict events with accuracy and certainty, deep philosophical questions arise about causality and determinism. There are two extremes when it comes to the nature of causality: determinism and randomness.
Determinism postulates that every event has directly antecedent causes. If we comprehensively knew the current state of all things, we could predict with certainty all future events.
On the other hand, some postulate that the fundamental nature of reality is randomness. Things just happen and what we see is some form of "average" product of the randomness.
The contemporary apocalyptic thriller, Knowing, directed by Alex Proyas, tackles these themes head-on. The central character, John Koestler (Nicholas Cage), is a scientist who, since losing his wife in a disaster some years before, struggles with the question of whether there is any inherent meaning in the events that occur (based on some form of determinism) or whether what happens is random and arbitrary.
Knowing opens in 1955 in a school where students are participating in a competition to come up with a celebration of the opening. Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson) wins the competition when she suggests the school bury a time capsule with drawings of what the children think the world will be like in 50 years time. Lucinda's image is a page full of seemingly random numbers that she writes frenetically and is not able to finish because she is interrupted. She goes missing and is later found in the school's gym frantically scratching the remaining numbers on a closet door.
Fifty years later, in the same school, the students remove the time capsule on the anniversary of the school's opening. John Koestler's son, Caleb (Joshua Long) is given the envelope containing Lucinda's page of numbers. He opens it and takes the page home because he wonders whether it is a puzzle that can be solved.
His father, John, notices a pattern in some of the numbers that consist of the date and number of deaths of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. John gradually realises that the numbers are the details of the major disasters that occurred from the 1955 up until the present day. Thus begins an edge-of-your-seat thriller as John tries to uncover the meaning of the numbers that indicate a significant disaster in the near future. Adding to the suspense is growing belief that all this has something to do with his son -- particularly when Caleb begins to hear voices and see strange men trying to make contact with him.
Knowing is a tense, gripping, roller-coaster ride to a profoundly religious conclusion that postulates a hope of redemption for a devastated earth destroyed by the ultimate natural disaster. Viewers who are culturally literate will notice numerous allusions to religious and biblical themes. In many ways, the future vision of Knowing is bleak with only some being saved. But that mirrors the biblical themes of the destruction of heaven and earth with those who hear the call being rescued to populate a new earth.
Knowing is an intriguing film based on an intriguing premise. We are living in a world which seems to recognise the fragility of the planet and the realisation that we may be nearly at the point-of-no-return when, if we don't change the way we relate to the earth, there may be no earth to relate to. There is no hope unless salvation comes from outside the planet. It is the knowing that is important -- to be saved, you need to know the right person. That is far more important than knowing the details of the future which are not as predictable as Knowing suggests.
'Knowing is among the best science-fiction films I've seen -- frightening, suspenseful, intelligent and, when it needs to be, rather awesome.' - Roger Ebert/Chicago Sun-Times
'Isn't prophetic ... just pathetic.' - Joe Neumaier/New York Daily News
disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language