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The Collector


This film came out in 1965 and was a compelling adaptation of the John Fowles novel about a withdrawn butterfly collector who decides to add to his collection by kidnapping a beautiful girl he admires.  He is only able to act on this impulse because he has recently won the lottery.  After kidnapping her, he locks her in his cellar hoping she will fall in love with him.  Chilling, unsettling drama with Terence Stamp unnerving, yet sympathetic in the lead.


In Fowles' novel, the victim, the young girl destroyed in a most painful way, delivers the following lines to herself: "A strange thought: I would not want this not to have happened.  Because if I escape I shall be a completely different and I think better person.  Because if I don't escape, if something dreadful happened, I shall still know that the person I was and would have stayed if this hadn't happened was not the person I now want to be."  As Oscar Wilde said:  "To live is the rarest thing in the world.  Most people exist, that is all."


Samantha Eggar is the female lead.  William Wyler directed.  It received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director but did not win any of them.  Stamp and Eggar did, however, both win at the Cannes Film Festival.   That year the Academy Award for best actress went to Julie Christie for her role in Darling.   Wyler's career goes all the way back to 1936 and includes such films as: Wuthering Heights, Friendly Persuasion, Ben-Hur, and Funny Girl.


The key question for this movie is: "How could anyone do this to a person?"  The character in the movie answers it by saying that a lot of people would do what he did if they had the money.  It was the winning of the lottery that made it possible for him to carry out his plan.  The real answer is, people are able to carry out this type of action against another human being because they have failed to develop empathy---remember that Daniel Goleman has indicated that empathy is one of the five key elements in emotional intelligence.


1.      Self-awareness (learning from our gut feelings).

2.      Managing emotions (delayed gratification and the marshmallow test).

3.      Motivation (optimism).

4.      Empathy (the "collector" lacks it just as Leopold and Loeb lacked it).

5.      Social skills.


As Goleman stated: Children are dramatically declining in emotionally intelligence.  Fortunately, unlike IQ, EI can be taught.  Also, we need to begin to appreciate how EI is good for your health.  It is not IQ that correlates well with success, it is EI.  Habits, continuous practice of positive empathic relationships, builds brain circuitry so that we become the caring type of person that is the glue for social existence.

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