Total Recall is exactly what it’s supposed to be: a fun, summer action flick. Farrell and Biel bring some heart to the screen and their believability makes you care about what happens to them. Beckinsale felt a little too much like a terminator, but kicked ass none-the-less. Ultimately, I enjoyed the ride, and I don’t think the film was really trying to deliver anything more. I haven’t seen the original Total Recall nor have I read Phillip K. Dick’s original short story, so I’m not sure what the themes are in those, but I did notice that this film has an underlying Buddhist thread.
To begin with, the symbol for a lotus flower flashed across the screen several times for a company in the film. Next, there was the giant Buddha statue (pictured above) at Rekall. When I rewatched the trailer, I realized how that room itself resembled a temple, with the Rekall device itself set at the alter. Finally, there was the emphasis on who you are not being dependent on who you were. Having seen the film only once, I can’t quote directly, but I believe Matthias tells Hauser (Farrell) that the heart lives in the now. Matthias insists Hauser must let go of the past he can’t remember and just be in the moment.
This is a poignant and timely (also timeless) message. We live in a fast paced society where the past and future often consume us. In fact, we are so future-driven that it can be quite difficult to see the present. A clear definition of self is also prized in our culture, and any fluctuation can be seen as weakness. The emphasis that you are who you are now, without clinging to thoughts of the past, is a very Buddhist concept. The presence of Buddhism in the West has been growing, and I think we will continue to see more of it, especially in film, media, and popular culture. It’s a valid response to our concerns (as seen film, television, and reality) about the Apocalypse. Regardless of religious beliefs and traditions, one can find great wisdom in Eastern philosophy (including Buddhism) focused on mindfulness, presence, self and non-self.