Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Films for the Queue

I was talking to some friends about films and question arose whether there any contemporary ones have anything thoughtful religious themes in them. Here are the ones that came to mind:

The Mission: Robert Joffe has been praised because he raises ethical dilemmas which have no cookie cutter solution to them. The fact the Vatican has put this film on its ‘Greats’ list shows that the Church is not taken aback by the questions it raises.

Gattaca: This is a Sci-Fi film that deals with problems traditional religious believers are especially concerned about. The film takes place in the future in which designer babies (or as I like to say ‘re-designed babies’) are now the norm. A Catholic woman decides to buck the trend and go natural. This God-child, a term meant reference his inferiority, has to compete in a world in which workplaces are only interested in Human Beings 2.0. The film, I suspect, will be seen as more and more prophetic as “science is put in its proper place.”

The Exorcism of Emily Rose: This is not a typical horror film. The priest is not depicted as a wild-eyed shaman, but as a cautious and composed man. The film presents the views of the religious believer and the skeptic, but ultimately sides with the former. Loosely based on a true story.

Signs: Unlike any Aliens movie, the film’s title has a double meaning as the deeper question the film raises is whether coincidences are the evidence of Providence at work or merely the result of random chance. Shymalan shows his familiarity with ID arguments as he forces the viewer to take a stand on the meaning of the final events of the film.

Brideshead Revisited: This is the BBC series, not the recent remake. The director of the 2008 version explicitly rejected the religious elements in the earlier series and wanted to “depict God as a villain.” Evelyn Waugh who wrote the novel, is certainly turning over in his grave on that one. Moving on, Catholicism permeates the story and the popularity of the novel and series in England shows that the anti-Catholicism, which was so virulent in the country, has been mitigated in the last fifty years.

I have left off several contemporary films like Therese, Bella, and Into the Great Silence. This is not because I have not seen them, but because I didn’t like them. In regards to the first two, the filmmakers have dropped the ball when it comes to engaging the culture. The sentimentality, which is rampant in the films, is not a help to the Church and in some instances might even be hindrance.

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