“Does it matter?”
“No. No, not to me.”

Review: Frequencies (2013), Love, and Predestination

What this movie lacks in heart, it makes up for in convoluted existential questions and appropriately deadpan acting. There are two central themes to this scifi/romance: “All you need is heart, soul, and a little imagination” and “Knowledge determines destiny.”

In the world of Frequencies (2013), a person’s fate is determined by how low or how high their frequency is. The higher the frequency of a person, the smarter, the luckier (I’m talking never having to wait for a train or tripping or spilling tea lucky here), and the less emotional they are. The opposite is true for low frequency individuals.

The story is told from two perspectives: Marie-Curie Fortune’s and Isaac-Newton “Zak” Midgeley’s. The two fall on the extreme ends of the frequency spectrum. Marie enjoys (or, at least, endures) making world-changing innovations and practicing how to smile in a mirror. Zak tries very hard to avoid getting killed by anything with mass and/or energy. A lot.

Me too, Marie. Me too.

The romance: The two can’t spend more than a minute a year with each other. Otherwise, Nature’s going to conjure storms and cause luggage to fall out of an airplane flying overhead all in an effort to keep them apart. So naturally, they fall in love.

The science fiction: Zak and his only friend Theodor-Adorno “Theo” Strauss discover how to essentially hack into nature — allowing them to alter frequencies and eventually manipulate people through — through spoken word.

Yup. Just another scifi romance.

This first quarter of the film shows us the schoolyard flirting between Zak and Marie. In their last year, Zak expresses his love for Marie. The latter calmly and dispassionately explains that all the flirting was part of an experiment where she could practice acting like a normal, emotional human being.

Marie goes on with her life, fulfilling her role in society as a high frequency individual and uncaringly working towards the betterment of mankind.

Zak obsesses over winning Marie’s hand one day. We’re shown his exploits with Theo, the ultimate wingman, in their school days as they try to find a way to keep nature from blowing Zak up every time he secretly meets up with Marie.

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And that’s how Zak and Theo discover what Marie’s father dubs “the most important discovery of all time.” They learn that certain words spoken at certain times allows them keep nature at bay and render the frequency system useless. A way to level the playing field. No lucky, no unlucky — true balance.

But for every cure, there’s always a side effect: the words don’t just keep nature from pushing Zak and Marie apart; they also allow anyone who speaks them to control people’s minds.

“My whole life is a side effect.”

The latter half builds up this whole conspiracy where monarchs of old used these words to keep masses subservient (Only to be rendered useless by the dawn of Mozart, because music is apparently the reset button of the soul). The film tries to reorient this grand scheme on the relatively less grand love story of Zak and Marie which they both discover was built on nothing more than the right word said at the right time.

“Maybe you would have loved me anyway.”
“I guess we’ll never know.”
“Does it matter?”
“You have to have choice.”

There’s a very tense scene where Marie confronts Zak and forces him to undo the spell she’d been put under, only to discover that it doesn’t work that way. It’s easy to focus on the whole, “If you love me, you’ll set me free” thing, but that’s not what struck me in this scene. What I found far more compelling was the question, “If the only reason I love you is because I’m supposed to, do I really love you?”

And questions like that is where this movie really shines. Too bad it only shone through in the final fifteen minutes.

The story is retold from the perspective of Theo, a character that has played a minor supporting role from the start (except for that foreboding scene where he creates a simulation that can predict future events for the science fair). It turns out, Theo was less supportive and more puppet-master-pulling-Zak’s-strings-from-the-start.

Having inherited the knowledge of what role Mozart truly played in history, he tries to decode the music, and discovers that the world is nothing more than a sequence of predictable events. Every single person is just a complex machine reacting to the very first action that precipitated everything that has happened since and ever will happen.

Marie’s conflict of whether or not she truly loves Zak is rendered mundane compared to the idea that everything everyone feels or does is nothing more than a line in a grand script — one that Theo is leafing through.

They question the platitude, “Knowledge determines destiny” in light of the knowledge that their future isn’t truly their own. But with Theo uncovering the entirety of the so-called universal symphony, I think it holds even truer, if only for him.

“You ask me if I don’t miss surprises. I tell you that although I might get the score, there is still the joy of watching the performance.”

The film is far from perfect. Although the directing, editing, and scoring are incredible; the romance was half-baked and that last 15 minutes felt like a whole different film compared to the one we’d just enjoyed. But I can forgive it if only because of the lingering questions the film poses on the nature of love and destiny.

Stray observations:

  • Theo really let himself go, huh? He was kind of cute as a teenager. Still a douche though.
  • The way the coloring adjusted after Marie’s frequency was changed was pretty cool.
  • “If I’m right, it means that whatever gave us our minute wasn’t love, it was fate. It means I’m just here to serve a purpose for you. It means everything’s already decided. There’s no freedom, no responsibility, and knowledge absolutely does not determine destiny.”
    “Does it matter?”
  • How would you live your life if you knew everything you were going to do was predestined anyway? Would you live like Theo, just enjoying the show? Or would you go all nihilist and just blow everything up?