Thursday, April 01, 2010

Art, Film, and a Rant of Frustration.....

Recognize this movie? Nor did I. But yet Ordet was rated the #1 movie on the Top 100 Arts & Faith movie list rated by the Arts & faith community.

The list allows you to click on almost all the movies to read a summary and reason of why the movie was rated as high as it was. The list  " is a list of films characterized both by artistic excellence and a serious wrestling with questions that at root might be called religious or spiritual.."

And just like i had never watched (or heard) of Ordet, I have not viewed that and 93 other movies on the list.

And before I went to call the list a pompous arrogant ordered list of elitism to prove that movies were not a pseudo-art because there were plenty of movies on the list that the entire American population had never heard of, I sat down and thought about the movies I had seen on the list...

And I became even more angry. The movies that I had seen were indeed phenomenal (Magnolia, Apostle, Seventh Seal to name 3) and very thought provoking. As I read descriptions of the films I had not seen, they all seemed like Must-see for those who like to think for more than 3 seconds during a film.

I then was pointed toward this following link by Kent wherein a question & answer about the list was presented. One of the questions asked was where are the Ten Commandments and the Passions of the Christs of film? The Answer is the whole reason I am writing this post:

Sure, you might expect a list of “the Great Movies” chosen by a group of Christians to favor titles popular with religious audiences…like Fireproof, “the Jesus movie,” The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or The Nativity Story.
But it is exactly this tendency that fires up the folks at
Christian media have in recent years tended to celebrated art and entertainment for its “evangelical potential.” In other words, many Christians have become so concerned about the usefulness of art as a tool of ministry and evangelism, they’ve forgotten—or never known in the first place—what art really is, and how it works.
As a result, “Christian art” has become more and more didactic and simplistic. Its messages are easily paraphrased. No wonder the rest of the world dismisses it so easily.
Who can blame them? People turn to art for an imaginative experience, not a lesson or a sales pitch.
It is also worth noting that the conversation about art, especially in America, has narrowed considerably. Most American moviegoers—Christian or otherwise—are familiar only with what is contemporary, commercial, and American. They lack an education in film history, and are largely ignorant of independent and foreign cinema.

The above defense of film as art, and how movies for the masses are too overly simplistic in their struggles is no doubt true. In this world of shorter attention spans and 30 second youtube movies, we long for brevity and imagination at the loss of struggle and soul searching. I myself have been so frustrated by the shallowness and predictability of film that I have maybe watched 4-5 movies in all of 2009 in kind of apathetic turn from a genre of entertainment that I once loved (this list gives me hope).

Allow me to say that this film question and and answer from above opened a window in my soul. I think it is quite possible that the dilemma over over-simplicity in movies that confronts our generation is the same dilemma that is killing me in church. I do not mean to come across angry or bitter at all...but the sermons at our youth services and at our general conferences seem to me to have become more predictable and shallow:

 "God is in control." "The God-ordained trial is here to make you a better person." "Do not fret about the lies of Satan." "Do not sin." "Do not compromise our values." "God loves you."

All good messages. All true. I just wonder at times if preaching is just becoming a stage wherein the best preachers preach these simple messages and manage to get the biggest emotional response.

Maybe I am just being a nag, but a nag I will be then for the next few sentences: Things are becoming overly simple in this world. And because of it, I am becoming awkwardly lonely. I look to books to fill this void of the recognition of "struggle" in our faith, and everyday lives. It's almost like because of this overly-simplified world of "Good vs. Bad, Bad will lose kind of world," I kind of perceive that there is no one then that can relate to the soul and the questions that arise therein.

I think in my reading of Moby Dick last night, Melville said it best, "For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with the interlinked terrors and wonders of God!" And perhaps I want the world/church to better relate to these terrors within my heart, but maybe...maybe that's point....if the world could facilitate the struggle of ourselves and the complicated world we live in, we would stop looking to God for the answer....

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