Hollywood has a history of swapping tragic endings for happy ones based on the reaction of test audiences. Perhaps the most spectacular example is the 1986 movie adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors, whose original sinister ending was so disturbing that it remained unseen for decades and became the stuff of legend. Yet this musical really does require two endings, the comic and the tragic, because its conniving, carnivorous plant has biblical roots.
“Man was never meant to be a god, but he is forever trying to deify himself.” — Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” (Psalm 2:4)
As much as the dusty old Bible
makes moderns cough and choke,
it is still the air we take with us
to breathe between the stars.
Few novels or movies manage to successfully capture the imagination of our entire culture. When they do, it is often because they not only present us with engaging characters and a gripping plot, but also a coherent worldview. And in most of these, if not all, to varying degrees that worldview is the biblical one. A culture founded upon the Bible is forever bound to tell the old story. Once we are exposed to the truth, there is no going back. Once we reject the truth, there is no going forwards, either.
This post has been slain and resurrected for inclusion in my 2015 book of essays, Inquietude.
‘Stories are equipment for living.’ – Kenneth Burke
Blog gurus tell you never to blog “off brand,” but this one’s not as off as it might appear.
If you love the Bible and haven’t read Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative, you really need to. One of the reasons for the Reading the Bible in 3D seminar in April was to help people understand that the tools they gain from watching quality movies and TV and reading good fiction should not be shelved when reading the Bible. Sadly, it seems most Christians really aren’t interested in understanding the Bible in a new way. They are taught by ministers who have little idea of what they are actually dealing with in the Bible, and the ministers were trained in Bible academies ruled by men without an ounce of the childlike imagination the Bible requires to be understood. Consequently they miss the beauty, the musical rhythm, the intricacies and the constant use of “plant and payoff”, all of which are understood by the best authors. This includes screen writers, who have to say everything the writer of a novel says but in less words. Robert McKee writes: Continue reading
Then they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!” (Luke 23:30)
What we see
and what we seem
are but a dream…
a dream within a dream.
These lines by Edgar Allan Poe, slightly reshaped, are the first spoken words in the classic Australian film, Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975). Based on a novel by the enigmatic Joan Lindsay, it is an experience that clings to you, not merely because it is so carefully and beautifully made, but also because it is a film with secret blades: it is a mystery without a solution, a horror story without savagery, a nightmare in which all the watches stop at noonday.
On Saturday 14th February 1900, a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College picnicked at Hanging Rock near Mount Macedon in the state of Victoria. During the afternoon several members of the party disappeared without trace…
(Spoilers follow, but feel free to read on…)
[This post has been refined and included in Sweet Counsel: Essays to Brighten the Eyes.] Continue reading
Fans of the (rather sick) TV series Twin Peaks have a lot of fun trying to figure out the meaning of the many symbols and clues left by series creator David Lynch. But his apparent originality isn’t that original. His inspiration is the occult. The funny thing is that the occult itself isn’t all that original. It is simply an inversion of many things in the Bible, which is also filled with strange symbols and clues. It is no coincidence that Twin Peaks was the product of a culture that was once soaked in the Bible.
Shedding Blood in the Dark: The Liturgical Shape of Skyfall
[This post contains detailed spoilers.]
James Bond: Everybody needs a hobby. Silva: So, what’s yours? James Bond: Resurrection.
In the late 60s and early 70s, the structures of traditional Western storytelling were deliberately omitted from “thinking” films. Bleak narratives reflected the randomness of life without faith. Movies were becoming formless and void.
They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham… You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” (John 8:39, 44)
The theme of seed and fruit, or genealogy and mission, runs throughout the Bible. Genealogy is entirely objective. Our heredity is a factor in which we have no choice. It is the tree of life. But the fruit of our lives, what we choose to do with that life, involves our volition. Volition is mission. “It’s not about the hand you are dealt; it’s about how you play it.”
It’s now official. Kirk Cameron’s been hanging around with Darren Doane and Gary DeMar. He’s left the erroneous theology of Tim LaHaye’s silly books behind and embraced the optimism of postmillennialism — the Biblical teaching that the gospel will be victorious in history, through self-sacrifice.
Cheer up, you dispies. It’s not the end of the world.