Revenge and family dynamics in ‘In a Better World’ and ‘Taken’

In In a Better World and Taken we see broken families dealing with violence and revenge. In these films family issues influence decisions about taking revenge in complex ways. In In a Better World, we see a young boy, Elias, relentlessly bullied at school. He is helpless and wants the bullying to stop but takes no action until he meets Christian. Christian witnesses Elias’s torture and is hit once and he decides to get revenge by hitting the bully with a bike pump and threatening him with a knife. Each of the boys’ family lives influence their decisions when they encounter violence. Christian harbors bitterness and anger from his mother’s recent death and his father’s constant absence. Having been powerless to help his mother, the next time he encounters something bad happening to an innocent person (Elias), he takes action quickly and harshly. Elias’s relationship is much better with his father, even though he is often in Africa working as a doctor. His father has instilled in him that being the better man is more important than hurting someone else, as we see when he confronts the father who hit him in the auto shop. Until the end of the movie, Anton, Elias’s father, doesn’t give into the temptation of seeking revenge, but rather turning the other cheek. Christian’s idea of revenge has to be in some way violent for it to count for him. Christian carries out the revenge he feels Anton should be doing by building a bomb to blow up the man who hurt Anton’s car. Elias realizes the danger and insanity of setting off a bomb in a residential neighborhood over a few slaps on the face and name calling. He tries to stop the plan by talking to his father, but his father is in Africa and can only briefly talk to Elias on skype. Because of this lack of parental guidance, Elias decides the plan is a good idea. Elias is looking for approval and love that he doesn’t get at school or at home when his father is gone. Because of this he tries to avenge his father and follow Christian, who is the only friend and guidance he has. Anton ultimately takes revenge for the people he has treated in Africa by throwing a brutal war lord out of the camp to be beaten to death by a crowd. This time when Anton comes back to his home, there seems to be a possibility of him and his wife reconciling after the near death of Elias because of the bomb.

In Taken we see also see a father who has neglected his family for his job causing divorce and his daughter not to trust him. He tries to make it up to his daughter by quitting his job to live closer to her. He is constantly cut down by his ex-wife and shown up by her new husband who is extremely wealthy. He feels as though he can never measure up to his daughter’s new family and eventually agrees to let her go to France with her friend as a way of trying to measure up in his daughter’s eyes. If he didn’t feel below her stepfather it is likely that he wouldn’t have allowed her to go on the trip and would’ve ‘prevented’ his daughter’s kidnapping and slavery. After she is kidnapped he is finally the most valuable asset the family has of getting her back because of his CIA training. He is brutal in his quest to find his daughter not only to get her back but to get vengeance on those who took her. His excessive killing may be because of his former inadequacy as a parent. When he returns with his daughter their past relationship is erased and they are again a loving family. Through his revenge against the men who took his daughter, he has redeemed himself in a way he never could have before. It is interesting that in both of these films we see families being brought closer by one or more of them seeking revenge. \



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4 responses to “Revenge and family dynamics in ‘In a Better World’ and ‘Taken’

  1. annacantwell

    I don’t know if one can necessarily conclude that these families are brought closer by revenge. If Bryan did not love his daughter immensely, he would have never sought revenge. It also appears that prior to her kidnapping, Bryan and his daughter are close, despite what Bryan feels are shortcomings. For example, they go to lunch together and Bryan still knows that Kim wants to become a singer (a fact that her mom stiffly denies). It is clear by his profuse affection towards his son that Anton loves and cares for Elias very much. Instead of revenge bringing these two families closer, I think its merely the idea of hardship that bonds them. For example, if Elias had simply been hurt in a car accident, it is likely that Anton and his wife would set aside their differences and grow closer because they were experiencing mutual pain. In Bryan’s case, that was a very traumatic event which bonded their family closer because Kim was harmed, not because Bryan sought revenge.

  2. chaseweddington1

    I believe that the revenge in itself is not what brings these families together. In each case,there is a mutual, dominating love that the parents have with their children. The fact that some type of harm is inflicted upon them causes the parents to set aside their differences and unite to protect the child. The love that the parents have for the child dominates the conflicts that exist between them. Once the child is saved, it elicits a mutual respect and appreciation for the effort that was given by both parents to aid their child. The revenge helps strengthen this appreciation and respect.

  3. rpasser

    I wouldn’t say that revenge is the reason that the families are brought back together. Elias’ mother and father rekindle their relationship only after Elias is injured in the car bombing. Their “togetherness” was not bought about by the botched attempt at revenge, but instead, by the product of it: the placement of their child in life threatening situation. The same can be seen in Taken. Bryan is not brought closer to his distanced family at the end of the film because he took revenge on the men who kidnapped his daughter, but instead because he safely brought her home. I think the real message here is not that revenge can bring families together, but that families naturally bond when one of their own is in danger.

  4. I didn’t word the last sentence correctly. I agree that it wasn’t that actual act of revenge that brought the family and I meant to say that revenge wasn’t shown as a bad thing in these films because they don’t show negative effects on the families. I understand that the trauma brought both of the families together but in Taken, there seems to be no mention of what Bryan had to do to get his daughter back. Also, in In A Better World, Elias didn’t die and his parents may reconcile, so the families are in a better situation than when the films start despite the acts of revenge and violence enacted by members of their family.

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