I think the first movie I ever watched in the theater was A Little Mermaid for one of my friends birthday parties. I'm pretty sure most youth group events I went to as a kid had a showing of The Princess Bride or some other such harmless entertainment. For the most part, my experience with the world of film was innocent and pretty thoughtless (although I do remember sneaking a peak at Pretty Woman as a sixth grader at an overnight sleepover and then running home to confess all to my mother). But all that has changed, for the better I hope. It's been decades since The Princess Bride and I've found that there is more to a good film than it's rating.
Since moving to China however, our access to movies shrank significantly. There is the local undercover DVD shop where you can slink in through a hidden back door and peruse all the bootlegged films fresh out of the theaters (some not even showing yet). But our treasured stream of Netflix documentaries and film noire delights has come to a standstill. But being committed to beating this February slump as we are, we recently dusted off our long forgotten film loving lenses and started looking around for ways to access some of our old favorites. Thank you itunes for your help in this matter.
Today, I bring you two films.
The Age of Innocence
Let's begin with the eye candy: Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel-Day Lewis. Yes, they are beautiful people but they transform this story with their artistic skills, pulling you into the unspoken, stuffy world of high society New York in the late 19th century. It is the story of a young man who is torn between his commitment to the societal norms and the adherence to their pressures, and the passionate longing of his heart- namely a woman he desperately loves. The story is well-told and beautifully shot, as well as delicately portrayed by Lewis especially. But, the heart of the film poses some excellent questions. As the final scene closes, you are left to wonder, did he make the right choice? Does the film seem to say that he did or did not? There are layers of questions about human nature and the ethics of why we do what we do all throughout the film. And they are there for you to enjoy and muse over and discuss... go watch the movie! It's kind of old school now (early 90's) but it's still a good one.
I am putting this on here a little sheepishly... I mean it is thee cult classic on food and is probably cited or quoted or mentioned more than any other when it comes to thinking about theological themes in film. Whatever needs to be said about this movie has already been said, and much better than what I could say here. But, every generation needs a new voice (or blog) to repaint the old truths with new words so I'll just talk about it anyway... maybe it will make you watch the film if you have never done so before.
There is so much there: the inherent goodness of creation, the beauty of giving, food as a means of transmitting grace, the importance of feasting, the act of the artist as a service and a means of blessing, and more. Much more. It's simple, but so beautiful and profound. Babette is a French servant to two old Danish ladies who are part of a strict religious sect. The small group of parishioners has become rife with quarreling and infighting which grieves the sisters. Babette holds a secret and through her personal sacrifice she gives a gift to the town that brings both redemption and grace in a most surprising way. Watch it and you may never make dinner the same way again.
On that note, here are two great resources for good films and thinking through them...
Reel Spirituality: theology and film in dialogue by Robert K. Johnston
The Kingdlings Muse (a website with great podcasts on faith and culture and they always discuss the latest movies)
I'd love to hear what you are watching and enjoying these days... even if it's about a mermaid.