Monday, April 18, 2011

Movies & Faith

As a devoted fan of movies with a moral base, I especially enjoyed this article from Catholic World Report, about several new movies appearing to be such.

An excerpt.

“In the recently released movie The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon plays a man who “gets a glimpse behind a curtain” that he “wasn’t supposed to know existed.” What he discovers is that the lives of men are governed by a master plan—a plan that is facilitated by superhuman figures who walk among us, intervening where necessary to keep our feet on the appointed path.

The Adjustment Bureau is Damon’s second peek behind the curtain in the last several months. In Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood, Damon plays a gifted psychic who is apparently able to communicate with the departed loved ones of anyone he touches. Near-death experiences of a realm of light inhabited by the souls of the departed are another theme: Hereafter opens with one such experience, and a supporting character claims to have gathered evidence from countless such cases supporting the existence of an afterlife.

The Adjustment Bureau and Hereafter are among a remarkable number of recent and upcoming Hollywood films in some way invoking themes of spirituality, religion, or belief. I am not including foreign films like Of Gods and Men, Xavier Beauvois’ extraordinary French film about the 1996 massacre of French Trappist monks living in Algeria, now playing in limited release. Nor do I mean Christian-produced indies like The Grace Card or Courageous, from the creators of Fireproof. (There Be Dragons, Roland JoffĂ©’s upcoming drama depicting events in the life of St. JosemarĂ­a Escriva, is a blend of these two categories—part indie, part foreign film.) I am referring primarily to mainstream entertainment with big-name stars distributed by the major Hollywood studios. 2010 was particularly rife with such Hollywood religiosity, quantitatively if not necessarily qualitatively.

“The year opened with a pair of dim-witted quasi-religious apocalyptic thrillers. In The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington wanders a postapocalyptic wasteland on a mission from God to save the last copy of the King James Bible while keeping it from those who would use it to create a false religion. Legion imagines God losing faith in mankind and sending angelic hosts to wipe out humanity, prompting Michael to rebel, defending humanity against Gabriel and his forces.

“Hymnody, gospel music, and scriptural quotations showed up in more than one film. The Coen brothers’ critically and popularly acclaimed remake True Grit opens with a citation from Proverbs, and the characters’ dialogue is peppered with allusions to scriptural and biblical themes. The score makes use of several hymns, notably “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” sung over the end credits by Iris DeMent, but also “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and others. (The celebrated indie Winter’s Bone, a film with more than a few thematic links to True Grit