Saturday, March 12, 2005

Movie Updates

Finally had some time to myself today, so I watched Saved! and I'm watching Beyond Sunset right now (don't mistake my blogging while watching for disappointment with the latter film. I'm really enjoying it, but felt like blogging about Saved!, which I just finished with about 40 minutes ago).

Hmmm.... so how do I feel about Saved!? In the interest of being open, I'll admit to being a Christian. Not a lapsed or former Christian. I still believe. But I've changed a lot since my childhood -- I guess the biggest change is just not worrying so much about everyone else's problems, and believing primarily that the purpose of Christianity is to love other people the way God loves them... in other words, it's not our jobs to point out everyone's sins to them. That's the biggest problem I have with the church these days -- so many people are so obsessed with everyone else's sins that the whole focus of the Christian religion has been placed on stopping everyone else from doing what they want to do.

The previous paragraph implies that I believe that some things are, in fact, sinful. I do believe that. There are things I think are wrong -- things God prefers us not to do. But I'm not going to go into specifics here because I don't want to derail the whole post... suffice it to say that I think there ARE moral absolutes. I truly don't believe there's anything wrong with holding to those absolutes -- and believing that it is right for others to do so. What I really struggle with is the way many churches push the rightness and wrongness issue -- the moral absolutes -- as the primary mission of faith -- to stop people from doing 'bad stuff.'

So -- on to the movie. I didn't attend a high school like the one in the movie, but I did attend a small Christian liberal-arts college. So I don't have a specific experience of that environment. I do have the whole "church youth group" experience, which is not dissimilar. The movie's approach is satirical, so it's necessarily over-the-top... I guess I just didn't know people who were as bad as the so-called Christians in the movie. But I'm sure that they (we?) ostracized people in subtle ways. My recollection was that people were ostracized not for sins but for just not being cool enough, good looking enough, etc. Not that this is any better, of course.

The reality is, I see a lot of flaws in the way Christians try to communicate faith to their children. We're so focused on memorizing scriptures and pointing out what NOT to do, that I think we forget to teach them how to treat people, how to love. Honestly, I think the story of Christianity is all about love -- God's love for His people. That's what it boils down to for me. The greatest of these is love... If you have not love...

So, the characters in the movie... there ARE people like that, and I -- as a Christian -- loathe them as much as anyone. I loathe them because they're wrong and because they turn people away from God. But I don't think they represent Christianity any more than terrorists represent the Muslim faith (not to liken them specifically to terrorists; just trying to make a point). The so-called radical Christian Right is not the totality of Christianity. It's possible to repudiate those people and still have faith and believe in God. It's possible to look at the hypocrisy in the church and believe that hypocrisy is a human foible but doesn't diminish the truth of Christianity.

And that's pretty much where I stand. Yes, there are hypocrites in the church. Many. Yes, there are people who simply don't get it. Many of them are spokespeople, the ones who get on the news. That's not the way I believe. But I still do believe.

My problem with Saved! is not that it points out these hypocrisies. It's that, in the end, it seems to be saying that moral absolutes in and of themselves are part of the problem. I say "seems" because ultimately I'm really not sure. It's hard to watch a movie and determine what actions mean. Did Clint Eastwood attempt to 'glorify' euthanasia in Million Dollar Baby? (I haven't seen it, so I have no idea). Just because he depicted it?

So the filmmakers behind Saved!, do they want us to think that nothing is wrong with anything (by the sunny-happy ending where all the outcasts come together and form their own family)? Or are they just saying that tolerance, when these things do happen, is the right thing? I agree with that. But I'm not sure what they're trying to say.

Hard movie to watch if you're a Christian. Not that they're wrong. It holds up a mirror to people of faith, and they can either look and see what's all around them (even if it doesn't represent the individual who's watching), or they can turn away and say it's someone's sour grapes, that 'the media' hates Christians.

There's probably a little bit of truth in all of those options.

Beyond Sunset is a much more relaxing film. I enjoyed the first film, Beyond Sunrise, and this one is amazingly bittersweet. The notion that these two could have spent their lives together but for a missed meeting, a grandmother who died on the wrong date, nine years passing, an ill-advised marriage. Very few filmmakers could make a movie where two people talk in real time for 80 to 90 minutes and it still captivates. Good writing, good acting, very natural connection between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I really want these two to be together, in spite of all that separates them, and it's weird to see the drama of this relationship to have matured along with me. Nine or ten years ago, these characters were the same age as me, traveling across Europe, lives still beginning, so much hope for the future. Now, the characters are matured, one of them has kids, they've begun to experience disappointment and minor and major tragedies in their lives, and they've begin to get set in their ways, to establish patterns in romantic relationships that they struggle to break out of... I feel like the characters have matured as I have. Just the good fortune to have been nearly the same ages as these characters when the films first came out.

It's a very engrossing film, very real, and very sad.


At 6:06 PM, Anonymous chuck said...

I'll write a comment about Saved! later, but just wanted to mention that I watched Before Sunrise a second time earlier this week, and your review really captures my reaction. Their conversations are utterly compelling, the film capturing much of my own development as a human being, and like you, the characters are approximately my age. I'm half hoping that Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke revisit these characters every ten years or so, kind of a Generation X Antoine Doinel saga.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

It's a bittersweet film and I guess Linklater really connects with us because he's essentially of this generation as well. He's writing about life as he knows it. But beyond that, he's really capturing it well. I mean, you can write all you want about this generation and do it really poorly. But he really gets it and communicates it so well.

Looking forward to your Saved! comments, given our shared history in the church.


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