"There is a misty twilight of the soul "A sickly eclipse, low brooding o'er a man,When the poor brain is as an empty bowl, And the thought-spirit, weariful and wan, "Turning from that which yet it loves the best, "Sinks moveless, with life-poverty opprest" "Watch, then, O Lord, thy feebly glimmering coal."George MacDonald "Diary of an Old Soul."
Even the dimmest bulb on the planet can see that if "art is the language of the soul," our Academy Award Best Picture Nominees reveal the misty twilight of human hope brought on by a dark shadows cast across the human soul.
All five nominees portray human capacity for evil and fallenness and each in its own way explores
whether or not there is reason for hope. With one exception, these films reveal a sense of inevitable doom and a pervasive pessimism about the human condition.
Two are memorable in bringing the extreme embodiment of evil to the screen as their official descriptions indicate.
"There Will Be Blood forces us to confront Plainville, who seems to be a larger-than-life personification of evil."
In No Country for Old Men "the tension mounts, the body count begins to rise, confirming Sheriff Bell's inability to battle this new wave of modern brutality Chigurh is a freakishly mysterious monster, and is certain to haunt viewers long after the final credit has rolled."
Three of the films take on the issue of redemption, each reaching a different conclusion.
In Atonement "the honey-drizzled look of the first two thirds of the film contrasts achingly with the tension and seriousness of the action unfolding (and the grim intensity of the wartime sections)." These characters seek forgiveness and atonement, or as some say "at-one-ment," and find it excruciatingly difficult to attain.
In Michael Clayton "George Clooney delivers a rich performance as a hangdog and haunted man who wants to stay on the side of good, but is a little too skilled at moral margin-walking to make that an easy choice in every situation." In this throwback to classic filmmaking, we see a man whose career has been devoted to being a "fixer" for the "dark side," but who now tries to move into the "light" only to realize how difficult it is to change directions.
If there is a feel good film this year it is Juno, the story of a teen-age pregnancy that ends not with abortion, but with birth. It takes the dilemma of human frailty more lightly, and offers a path to hopefulness.
In the words of host Jon Stewart, joking about the dark movies up for Best Picture with comedy Juno, "Does this town need a hug...? No Country For Old Men, Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood. All I can say is, `Thank God for teen pregnancy."
Don't get me wrong, these were powerful movies, art is doing a great job of revealing the desperation of the human condition, but now it is up to thoughtful, devout, creatives to show how their faith is an attractive and true solution.
Pascal, a brilliant French mathematician and Christian apologist believed in such situations it was the job of a Christian to: 1) Show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. 2) To make it attractive. 3) To make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.
The current craze in Hollywood and in conservative Christian circles is to make faith-friendly, family-friendly films so nice Christians will come to the box office.
Of course, such films offer no compelling, intelligent response to the questions raised by Hollywood. As I said to Kim Lawton in a recent PBS interview, "the Christian story has a resurrection, but it also has a lot of messiness in it. It has a lot of reality in it. So if you want to tell the Christian story, it's not just a feel good story. It's a story that has substantial pain and suffering and sorrow in it, just like our lives do."
Effective stories will start with "the feebly glimmering coal" and will reveal little glimpses of how that coal can be fanned to warmth illumination is needed.
Thoughtful creatives for whom God is of central importance--It is time to get to work!
Dick was featured this week on a PBS Special on God and Hollywood!