I watched Equilibrium again the other night and finally finished the movie. I didn't the first time because I got called away just when Christian Bale was listening to Sean Bean reading Blake, alas. My brother who watched the movie with me spent most of the time exclaiming over what is called, offhandedly, the 'Gun-Kata' fights. He has an aversion to swords and though he declares himself a fan of Chinese action films, he refuses to watch any movie that features a swordfight, even minor ones (which should cancel out maybe 75% of his declared fandom denomination). He feels that Equilibrium's approach to the seemingly irreconcilable contradiction between the respective aesthetics of sword and gun is just perfect. (I tell him, as a matter of principle, that the issue is not so much about aesthetics as his regrettably low squick threshold. ). In the movie, members of the elite and ruling Grammaton Cleric wield their guns in a way that is... very Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu, Kenshin kicking ass in Final Fantasy sans Roman numerals. The mediating factor is not classical fencing strategy applied to gun duels; it's more anime fodder within the context of hyped military simulation. The director and stunt coordinators say pretty much the same thing (though in less convoluted prose.)
Thinking about it, however... I was reading up on fencing theory a year or so ago while writing something and came upon this book entitled "Libro que trata de la philosophia de las armas, y de su destreza, y de la agressión y defensión christiana" via Richard Cohen. It's by Don Jeronimo de Carranza and was published mid-16th century in Seville and is recognized as the earliest treatise on fencing in Spain. The thesis of the book is rather abstruse -- less charitable fencing thereoticians and historians say flat out that it's ridiculous -- but when I watched Equilibrium, I thought I could see how it might work. Ironically.
Carranza called his system 'la destreza' (the high art) rather than esgrima (fencing). He believed that the entire education of a gentleman -- mathematics, science, philosophy, art -- should be applied to the management of arms, most notably the science of geometry. He's presumably channeling Ibn Khaldun somewhere in there ("Geometry enlightens the intellect and sets one's mind right. All its proofs are very clear and orderly...." etc).
So just as Leonardo da Vinci had placed man in a circle in his examination of human proportions, Carranza organized his doctrines around a circle, whose radius bears a cryptic relation to the length of human limbs and Spanish swords. In this 'mystical' circle the vertical axis bisects the body, while a horizontal chord is run through the outstretched arms. The circle is further inscribed in squares and intersected by various chords that seem to stand for certain strokes and parries. The fencer was expected to imagine a similar circle around himself and step from intersection to intersection, guided by complicated calculations. This is a bit like the circle in which a Cleric positions himself as he shoots his opponents down applying systematic patterns of firing crossing over with what seems to be imaginary and elaborate physics derived from Carranza's system.
The idea of using guns as if they are swords is pretty interesting, but outside of anime, the Japanese probably won't agree. There's this book by Noel Perrin, also referenced in Cohen, about the history of guns in Japan. Guns were not very popular, even way into early Meiji. Perrin explains that this might be partly due to the fact swords have a more symbolic value in Japan than anywhere else, including the West; swordplay goes beyond what Richard Burton memorably calls 'an ugly exchange of dull lead for polished steel' (or something like that). Swords are not only supposed to be beautiful, they're associated with graceful movement. I don't know if this is truly a cultural fact in Japan, but I'll admit to finding the highly artificial and balletic quality of swordplay in movies more attractive than the sometimes merely raw violence of gunfighting. There's some sort of mystique surrounding it, but it's probably not all breathless romanticism. When you fire a gun, you are placed in a distinctly more ungainly position than when you use a sword. You have to contort your body in defiance of stylistic principles. 'Must separate knees to fire.' Indeed.
Maybe Equilibirum is a compromise -- Christian Bale spends most of his fighting time standing in one place firing like a Zen cowboy and looking very aesthetic -- but then it is just a movie. Who knows, though.