ANDY AT THE MOVIES

REVOLUTIONARY ROADI watch a lot of films. In fact my wife and I pay a monthly membership fee at the local cinema, meaning we can go as often as we want.  For her it’s pretty essential, given that she works within the film industry. This, of course, raises issues pertaining to what aids our godliness and what might act to impede it. It’s an area I have touched upon before but one that I am yet to really get my head around.

I would hate to place myself in a ‘Christian box’, watching only the God Channel and listening only to Premier Radio. I would hate to be restricted in the cinema to seeing only Amazing Grace or The Passion of the Christ! I sometimes fear that is the only ‘safe’ response to the guidance of William Lane Craig (thanks for the link Phil) and other godly leaders; they are of course quite right to cite Philippians 4:8 (‘whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable… think about these things) but I’m not sure whether I agree with the application. What’s more, I honestly believe the cinema, even when less than pure in its message, can be a valuable resource. We must engage with the worldview of our culture, face the issues of those around us and know the hearts of others in order to respond. Films often present real and/or intriguing snap-shots of our society’s concerns, framed in thought-provoking 90-minute packages. But it all, of course, depends on how we watch them…

 

I have come to believe that it’s not enough to turn our brains off and consider everything ‘entertainment’. To do so is often to swallow whole and unquestioningly the values and worldview placed before us. That isn’t good for us – to accept something as reasonable is often to be influenced by it, even sub-consciously. There is a world of difference between seeing sin and laughing approvingly at it, or us seeing sin, recognising it as sin, considering and discussing WHY it is sin and questioning how we should respond to, or guard against, that sin as Christians. Much of this approach is pilfered straight from Gavin McGrath, our former Assistant Pastor, who gave a list of questions to ask when watching a film: What is the message of this film? What are the consequences of the sinful acts depicted? What would the Bible say about these actions? (My notes are lost in the mist of time so I very much paraphrase!). It DOESN’T have to stop us enjoying the movies we watch – I get a lot more out of cinema, and find myself far more involved, when I am really engaging with the motivations and choices of each character, considering the full weight of their implications.

 

One further point, before a couple of small movie reviews. We will only have our godly specs on if we have already been looking in His direction. It is an absolute fact that, if I’m not reading the Bible, involved in the church community or dwelling on the things of God (ie ‘whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing’ etc), then I will stop seeing this world for what it is, and will instead begin buying into the culture wholesale – it’s a process of osmosis; spiritually, we are what we eat! However, if we are wearing our armour of God: if we are equipped with righteousness, with a sound understanding of truth, with the sword of the Spirit that is the Bible… then we will see things for what they are, and we are a lot safer engaging with the culture. Most interestingly, when watched through a Christian lens, I honestly believe that most film arcs can be summarised as the following:

 

·        Person is dissatisfied in life due to God-shaped hole.

·        Person tries to fill that God-shaped hole with something that isn’t God.

·        Film thus ends with further dissatisfaction OR, more commonly, gives a false resolution in which a short-term option is presented as ‘happily ever after’.

 

So then, a couple of movie reviews written from a slightly different perspective than those of Jonathan Ross (spoiler alerts!)…

 

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD:

This is a film about a married couple, dealing with the issues of marital dissatisfaction, infidelity and abortion. The husband is weak in his leadership and easily caves to temptation elsewhere. The wife, as a consequence, lacks respect for her husband. She in turn is deeply immature, pursuing dreams of escaping responsibility and convention in favour of an unattainable fantasy life in Paris. For this dream she would readily dispense of the baby within her.

I have seldom seen a film where the characters so palpably live out the frustration of fallen humanity. The false idols of pleasure, stability, wealth and status have all failed to deliver. The response to this emptiness is for them to look for ever more sinful and futile replacements – excitement and sexual gratification – and both are harshly judged and punished by the end of the story. I felt the film was brave in not letting anyone off the hook or providing false resolution. It could almost be used as an advert for the need we have to find purpose and salvation. The filmmakers just lacked the knowledge to show us where to find it.

 

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA:

I would well understand you questioning my attendance of this film, seeing as it’s being marketed as erotica. You may be right. For what it’s worth, however, despite the highly cynical marketing, I was aware before seeing it that this is actually a 12-rated Woody Allen film devoid of nudity or graphic sex! It is still sexy, granted, but it also raises fascinating questions regarding commitment, responsibility and the pursuit of pleasure.

One character is looking for excitement and prides herself in being ‘brave’ enough to grasp it when offered. One character is seeking stability in marriage but, in doing so, has chosen a ‘safe’ man she doesn’t truly love. They are both attracted to a man who deems life short, meaningless and best spent indulging sensual pleasures (although he’s actually in love with his tempestuous ex-wife).

Ultimately, the first is shown to be foolish for her failure to be satisfied by anything (even by sharing a man with his ex-wife!), and for not knowing what she really wants; the second is shown as weak, or perhaps tragically noble, for persisting in her unhappy marriage, rather than leaving it for enhanced short-term sexual gratification elsewhere. The man is, thankfully, eventually shown as somewhat ridiculous, fated never to be happy in his bohemian ways.

The overall message of the film, I think, was that we should have the courage to embrace those relationships that ‘feel right’, wherever they may occur, and not be bound by convention.

My response to that would be to point out that sex is a good gift from God, used to bond a loving couple for life within marriage. All characters have been hurt by their misuse of sex and their charms would be better employed in working at and preserving a God-centred marriage, through hard times and good. Application-wise, the first girl needed to grow up and get a job, the second picked the wrong husband because her idol was security, but now needs to make the marriage work. Oh, and they should both have steered well clear of the slimy Spanish loser! For myself, I noted, never let my wife spend two aimless summer months in Spain without me!

 

Feel free to offer your own reviews!

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