Gilliam, Wilford, and the Necessity of Culling

I consider Snowpiercer to be one of the fringe films we’ve watched in class, simply because of the exotic nature of the setting.  Humanity’s situation, while apocalyptic like the other films, is so in a very exotic fashion.  Humans taking refuge from a climate-gone-cold, in a global perpetually-powered locomotive.  As time goes on, the inhabitants of this mysteriously sustainable transport begin to forum societal hierarchies, where the low-class are placed in the back of the train, and the privileged occupy the front.

Due to the inbalance of liberties, there have been multiple rebellious attempts at revolutions, all ending in failure.  The leader of the low-class is an older gentleman, Gilliam, whom is first portrayed as an altruistic, selfless man, only interested in the betterment of the fellows associated with his station.  However, small hints are scattered throughout the film of his association with Wilford, the owner of the train and leader of the community, seen as the source of all the ailments of the lower-class.  Also just before the end of the film, our protagonist meets Wilford, where more was seemingly revealed.  According to Wilford, every rebellion, with the help of Gilliam, was staged to justify the need for population culling, to keep everything in balance.  While Gilliam is dead at this point, and is unable to refute Wilford’s claims, Gilliam did inform our protagonist to not let Wilford speak, implying that perhaps Wilford will lie, or perhaps Gilliam was scared that the truth will be revealed.

An argument that I’ve come up with to counter this thought, however, is that during the beginning of the occupation of the train, when humans were so hungry that they’ve resorted to eating each other, Gilliam offered an arm and leg for others to feast in order to save the life of a little child.  This act of altruism and passion seems to contradict the character of someone who might agree to the culling of a population purely out of logic.  But perhaps that was an old Gilliam, and as time went on, a situation as unique as this may change the way we have to think to survive.

Do you think Wilford was telling the truth, or was Gilliam innocent?  Does it matter in the end?


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