In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Knock at the Cabin, we talk about themes that help us understand the film.
- Dave Bautista – Leonard
- Jonathan Groff – Eric
- Ben Aldridge – Andrew
- Nikki Amuka-Bird – Sabrina
- Kristen Cui – Wen
- Abby Quinn – Adriane
- Rupert Grint – Redmond
- M. Night Shyamalan – Writer, director, infomercial host
The themes and meaning of Knock at the Cabin
Eric tells Andrew he believes Leonard, Sabrina, Adriane, and Redmond embody the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These four horsemen are a major component of the Book of Revelations in the Bible. Revelation 6, specifically, speaks of these four warriors who ride out on white, red, black, and pale horses who each represent four facets of the Last Judgment, aka the end of the world: conquest, war, famine, death. Essentially, the Four Horsemen are associated with despair and misery. The end of the world is ugly and vicious and relentless, and there’s no escaping it.
Interestingly, this isn’t how Eric perceives the Four Horsemen. Instead, he believes Redmond epitomizes malice, Adriane nurturing, Sabrina healing, and Leonard guidance. Those four elements are very specific to he and Andrew’s situation. Which presents a really interesting thesis on how people individually observe the “apocalypse” and what exactly the Four Horsemen represent to our individual lives.
Let’s remember: Revelations was written by a man referred to as John of Patmos. To this day, there’s no universal concurrence on who exactly John was—he was simply a man. You could view John’s vision of the apocalypse as prophetic, or you could simply observe his tales as powerful storytelling. Storytellers create characters and situations that exaggerate yet bring clarity to the realities of life. In Revelations, it appears John reflected the cruelties of humanity back onto humanity; people have inflicted terrible things like famine and war upon each other, and John prophesied that the apocalypse would bring everything full circle. Essentially: there are consequences for abusing this world given to us by God, and the end of everything won’t be a pretty one.
But, again: let’s not forget about the importance of perspective. Revelations is nothing more than a story written by a man, and the “apocalypse” is nothing more than John’s storytelling vision. In its entirety, the Book of Revelations is an observation of goodness and virtue conquering Satan and evil. John used the Four Horsemen to punish the evil he saw throughout the world; they served as a reminder of God’s will and power, and how tiny and insignificant humans truly are by comparison.
Essentially, the “apocalypse” in Revelations represented John’s worldview. So the same filter should be applied to Eric. Metaphorically speaking, Eric and Andrew experienced the apocalypse for years. The malice of the world, represented by Redmond, had attempted to tear them apart—and did quite a number on Andrew, who was traumatized by his encounter with Redmond years earlier. That one event had sent Andrew down a dark path and caused him to be overwhelmed by the evil and cruelty of the world. As two gay men trying to raise a daughter, Eric and Andrew constantly felt disenfranchised. What kind of world is that to live in?
But…what about the other horsemen? By imbuing the other horsemen with the qualities of nurturing, healing, and guidance, Shyamalan brings an optimistic twist to the concept of the “apocalypse.” Perhaps the apocalypse doesn’t have to represent the end of everything, but instead the end of your being.
Yes, John’s prophetic story envisions the end of the world. But on a deeper level, it represents a new beginning. The world isn’t necessarily ending. It’s simply transitioning to a higher realm. The Four Horsemen represent the wrath of God, but the ascension into Heaven that follows in Revelations represents God’s grace. This isn’t the end—this is a second chance. This is a new beginning. This is rebirth.
This explains Eric’s vision. As the apocalypse ensues around Eric and Andrew, you could view the event as punishment for the way the world treated them. But Eric is able to see the goodness of humanity that the Four Horsemen represent. These horsemen are people just like Eric and Andrew, and they’re capable of the same kind of nurturing and healing and guidance that they are as parents. Just like John’s story, Eric’s prophetic vision isn’t one of despair and loneliness, but instead one of joy and transcendence. He envisions Andrew growing old and raising a strong, confident daughter. And the only way Andrew can do that is if he also discovers the goodness of humanity that lies all around him.
If you view the “apocalypse” of Knock at the Cabin in this light, the entire film becomes a meditation on how we fit into the world around us. If we’re overtaken by the negative aspects, then it can feel like the world is constantly ending. But if we learn to focus on the positive aspects, then we can enrich our lives and find our place within this world—we can experience a rebirth into a higher realm that has purpose and meaning.
Dealing with traumatic experiences
In a broader sense, Knock at the Cabin is about the family of Eric, Andrew, and Wen. But if you boiled it down, you could argue that the movie is truly about Andrew as he deals with a traumatic experience.
Redmond’s attack years earlier at the bar clearly disoriented Andrew and besmirched his worldview. As a human rights lawyer, he was suddenly driven by anger and negativity in his profession; as a parent, he was saddened by his father’s disapproval of his relationship with Eric. Altogether, Andrew felt disenfranchised by the world. People looked down on his lifestyle, which in turn made him feel lonely and disconnected from society. He purely relied on comfort from his partner, and had decided to shut everyone else out.
You could view the entire situation in Knock at the Cabin as reflective of this trauma. The movie isn’t necessarily about Andrew, but instead about how his trauma affects people in his life. As a family, Eric, Andrew, and Wen must work together to find a path through the darkness. For Andrew to become an effective father who will raise Wen to be strong, he must learn to reflect that strength. And the only way to do that is to overcome his trauma, to live life as he would like Wen to live it, to embody goodness and positivity and joy. He must learn to let Eric go and find his own path.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more themes you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Knock at the Cabin? Leave your comments below and we’ll consider updating the guide.
Write a response