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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Our sleep habits both reveal and shape our loves. A decent indicator of what we love is that for which we willingly give up sleep. I love my kids, so I sacrifice sleep for them (often)—I nurse our baby or comfort our eldest after a nightmare. I love my husband and my close friends so I stay up late to keep a good conversation going a bit longer. Or I rise early to pray or to take a friend to the airport.

But my willingness to sacrifice sleep also reveals less noble loves. I stay up later than I should, drowsy, collapsed on the couch, vaguely surfing the Internet, watching cute puppy videos. Or I stay up trying to squeeze more activity into the day, to pack it with as much productivity as possible. My disordered sleep reveals a disordered love, idols of entertainment or productivity.

My willingness to sacrifice much-needed rest and my prioritizing amusement or work over the basic needs of my body and the people around me (with whom I’m far more likely to be short-tempered after a night of little sleep) reveal that these good things—entertainment and work—have taken a place of ascendancy in my life. 

— Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

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With discernment, charity, and dialogue, Christians can participate in stories in disruptive ways that challenge the distracted, secular age.

In concrete terms, this participation might involve going to a movie theater with a friend and talking about the film afterward, book clubs, discussing the latest episode of a TV show with a coworker, hosting parties for watching a TV show that intentionally include time for dialogue, hosting movie nights, or making time to talk about an album with a group of friends. Again, virtually all of us in America do this sort of thing to some extent. Stories of one kind or another are at the heart of our culture, and we relate to one another by sharing them and interpreting them together. I’m recommending that we be more intentional about our participation in stories in specific ways, in order to make the immanent frame more visible and to interpret intimations of transcendence toward the more satisfying and fulfilling account of existence found in Christ.

Practically, this means choosing aesthetically excellent stories, whether or not they are the most popular. These stories will tend to be darker or more depressing or heavy, which sounds unpleasant. But Christians should be known for their appreciation of tragedies, because in good tragedies we must reckon with our place in the world, the problem of evil, and the struggle for meaning. (In the classical sense of the term, comedies can also make us face these difficult realities, but in the contemporary world, this is less true.) All those questions and concerns our distracted age is good at helping us ignore come to the fore in stories that deal with the tragic element of life. I am not asking Christians to stop seeing superhero movies or listening to pop music, but we need to be mindful of how we use our time. Many of the popular stories in our culture leave us worse off. Instead of haunting us, they glorify vice, distract us from ourselves, lift our mood without lifting our spirits, and make us envious and covetous of fame, sexual conquests, and material possessions.

When a story haunts us, it troubles our buffered self; it intrudes on our thought life, makes connections to other stories and experiences and ideas, and compels us to contemplation.

… We do not need to only participate in dark or troubling stories, but we do need to give priority to stories that haunt us, unsettle us, and expand us, whether through beauty and delight or tragedy.

— Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness

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Silence

I recently finished reading Shusaku Endo’s acclaimed novel Silence, which has been made into a film by Martin Scorsese. I then watched the film this weekend. Both the book and the film are stunningly beautiful, heart-wrenching, layered with complexity, and thought-provoking.

Silence is a work of historical fiction centred on the Portuguese Catholic mission to Japan in the 1600s when Japan outlawed Christianity and systematically and harshly persecuted native believers and foreign missionaries. Endo was a Japanese Catholic and well equipped to thoughtfully explore themes of faith, certainty, apostasy, and persecution.

Scorsese’s treatment of the novel is a masterpiece and faithful to the tone and complexity of the original.

I resonate with Andrew Sullivan’s reflections:

It’s a surpassingly beautiful movie — but its genius lies in the complexity of its understanding of what faith really is. For some secular liberals, faith is some kind of easy, simple abdication of reason — a liberation from reality. For Scorsese, it’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery, and often inseparable from crippling, perpetual doubt. You see this in the main protagonist’s evolution: from a certain, absolutist arrogance to a long sacrifice of pride toward a deeper spiritual truth. ….

There are moments — surpassingly rare but often indelible — when you do hear the voice of God and see the face of Jesus. You never forget them — and I count those few moments in my life when I have heard the voice and seen the face as mere intimations of what is to come. But the rest is indeed silence. And the conscience is something that cannot sometimes hear itself. I’ve rarely seen the depth of this truth more beautifully unpacked. Which is why, perhaps, the movie has had such a tiny audience so far. Those without faith have no patience for a long meditation on it; those with faith in our time are filled too often with a passionate certainty to appreciate it. And this movie’s mysterious imagery can confound anyone.

I’m now reading Makoto Fujimura’s (the famed American Japanese artist and Christian commentator) book Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering, which explores Endo’s novel with reflections on faith, art, and suffering.

Early in the novel, the young Father Rodrigues says, “Men are born in two categories: the strong and the weak, the saints and the commonplace, the heroes and those who respect them. In time of persecution the strong are burnt in the flames and drowned in the sea; but the weak, like Kichijiro, lead a vagabond life in the mountains.” In response to this assertion, Fujimura comments:

While setting up this dichotomy of the strong and the weak, Endo skillfully arranges these clues in the same way that a mystery novelist would embed clues that misdirect the reader. The clues, the traps, are set so that the reader agrees with the observer of the failed persons, reacting in derision and judgment. At the time Father Rodrigues makes the previous observation he is quite confident of his faith, which in many ways carries with it the imperialistic confidence of the Western God of Christianity, triumphantly set to overcome the “pagan” religions of Japan. A casual reader will find it easy to judge Kichijiro, a Japanese who has betrayed his family and his Christian community by stepping on the fumi-e, denouncing his faith and surviving the persecution. Endo invites the reader to judge Kichijiro in the same way that Father Rodrigues does. We have a tendency to extol heroes of faith; our textbooks and our sermons are filled with the heroic. In doing so, we fall into a false dichotomy of seeing faith only in terms of victory or failure, which leads us to dismiss and discard the weak. Endo stands with those sitting in the pews who feel inadequate and uncertain, who doubt whether they can be strong, heroic and faith-filled. Endo, therefore, sets up ways in which his confident characters are forced to go through ambiguity, trauma and failures. Rodrigues is forced to find another way to understand his faith, and Kichijiro turns out to be a transformed person in the end.

Fujimura has a companion website with artful and thoughtful video reflections on Silence. I’m sure I’ll be posting more from both these videos and his book in the coming weeks.

If you haven’t read Silence or seen the film, consider doing so.

 

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Of course, we cannot really talk about The Lord of the Rings anymore without talking about the movies and why they should be avoided. If someone is introduced to the books because he saw the movies first, this is simply one more testimony as to how God in his sovereignty can bring good out of evil. But I do not think any traffic should go the other direction, from the books to the movies.

— Doug Wilson, Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf 

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Few of [the film adaptations] succeed as reproductions of Austen’s novels. The camera can only record surfaces, but the whole point of an Austen novel is to record the ironic discrepancies between surface and reality, to expose social masks as masks. As literary critic Roger Sales cleverly put it, “Austen adaptations are filmed as if Mr. Collins held the camera, lingering lovingly over the Regency finery—the china and the delicate teacups and the always-groaning sideboard.”

— Leithart, Peter, Jane Austen 

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