Andrew aka Fisti is holding a blogathon and I might very well make his deadline! He reminds us: “This is a blogathon about film, and film broaches God in many different (and subjective) ways, so I encourage all of your viewpoints and posts so as to make this a well-rounded collection of thoughts!” God and I have a really good relationship so, of course, I have my own view of God in movies…
Do you like your scripture presented in a grand, sweeping epic like 1956’s The Ten Commandments? Do you like your scriptures tampered with, as in Scorsese’s polarizing The Last Temptation of Christ? Do you want to see an artistic approach to God’s book, like with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? Or, do you prefer your faith handled in a more provocative and less direct way, as in the many works by Ingmar Bergman?
These are Fisti’s parameters: So my question is this; how do you like God in your movies? The concept is simple. I want you to rack your brains for the film that, to you, defines how the bible (and all of its facets) should be presented in film. #1 Pick a movie (or style), #2 Write a post explaining WHY it is your preferred dip into the Bible.
“How do you like God in your movies?”
“I love it with a side of real life and a subtle hand, thank you.”
This blogathon is really a personal discussion on our own philosophy, it’s a great question because no one is right or wrong and we can all learn from the other bloggers’ thoughts. So let’s dig into On Borrowed Time with the wonderful Lionel Barrymore.
I didn’t deliberately seek out On Borrowed Time. The premise didn’t snag me, nor did I seek to watch all the movies for a given year. I simply watched it because Lionel Barrymore, one of my favorite wheelchair bound actors (only?) was the lead. What I found was a little gem of a story about the lovely relationship between a young boy and his grandfather.
You notice that I when I talked about what I loved about the movie it was centered around the relationships portrayed in the story. I didn’t talk about how a supernatural being named Mr. Brink, as an agent of Death, came for Gramps, nor did I talk about how he tricked the old man into releasing him from the tree. I didn’t talk about how a wish Gramps made about apple thieves is what locked Death from roaming the earth taking his victims.
Nor did I talk about the greed of a scheming aunt set on obtaining the money left for Pud’s future. Nor did I mention the doctor who made not only such a theft possible but also created a circumstance that allowed Mr. Brink to play his trick. Nor did I explain that the doctor had the best intentions to release suffering people into the peaceful arms of death.
No at the heart of any story, whether about God, death or simple people we want to explore relationships. Sure we can examine themes and specific kinds of plot but at the heart we want to learn about life through the people experiencing it and how the ones we love or hate influence how we live life.
In this film they don’t talk so much about God as they do death. In fact, the biggest connection to God in the film is a trope that is used many times over in stories about Death…the personification of the act of dying. Of course, this is so well utilized because people don’t like the idea of Satan or Lucifer. That they have to go through life fighting evil is not a comfortable idea for them to consider. Since they know concretely death exists, portraying “the real God” as simply a nice gentleman who takes people to whatever comes after our bodies fail us…is such a comforting idea.
That doesn’t mean On Borrowed Time doesn’t have ideas we can learn from. They hint at a belief in an after-life. They portray Mr. Brink as someone bringing people to an acceptance that death is a natural process of life. The movie also shows how having all ones money stolen isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a boy. It also speaks about the best of intentions. The best movies don’t hit you over the head with their message. They show it through moving motivations, real relationships and a subtle hand at telling the audience what to think.
THE AFFECT OF GOD
Subtle is the operative word here. When someone tells me what to think, I quite often want to tell them to go where the sun don’t shine or other such cliché. Many will be convinced of a person’s words or ideas if they idolize a director or writer. That doesn’t convince me. They, at the end of the day, are artists, complete with the strengths and weaknesses we so adore in their characters. If they feel a need, to not only tell me what I believe is wrong, then proceed to show me what they believe is really what I should think, I feel they’ve gone a step too far.
So often today we are told we have to believe this. We have to treat people like this. What happened to persuasion? What happened to showing us without passing judgement first? What happened to us as the audience getting our preaching from a pulpit instead of from a movie or a book? That’s no longer socially acceptable.
If you’ll excuse my little rant, what I’m saying is that I don’t get my dose of God from a movie. I don’t want to get it from a movie and I won’t get it from a movie. I will watch (and read too, incidentally) stories that show me how God has affected them, how themes of life and faith have played a part in their decisions and their choices. If a movie has to beat you over the head then it’s trying too hard. When a movie divides people into religious and non-religious camps isn’t that the anti-thesis of the movie’s purpose?