Monday, January 18, 2010
I am sitting here listening to Pete Gabriel - Shaking the Tree thinking about the movie I watched last weekend. I went with my friend Dave to see the Hughes Brothers and Denzel Washington's new film 'The Book of Eli". I went without any research as to what the movie was about, so I didn't really expect much. Flash forward the 118 minutes and all I can say is - what a bold movie! If you can get past the similarities between Mad Max or a few of Kevin Costner's bombs(The Postman, Waterworld, For the Love of the Game, etc), you will find a rich subtext that provokes the questions of our current day.
Is faith the cause of pain or the cure?
Is belief just a vehicle for manipulation? Do wars rage because of people's faith or because of people who seek to profit from faith? It infers the current tension between Church and State.
Eli, the super BA hero of the story, believes that the Bible, and indirectly the God of the Bible is the answer to the woe's of the day. He is led on a mission to carry what he considers to be the last remaining Bible to the West coast and by the leading of the voice of God. He is willing AND able to kill to make sure the book remains out of the hands of those who would use it for personal gain. He knows not what lies beyond the task, but he hopes to find a place where the message of the book can take root. Eli’s kills, not by choice, but by necessity and even expresses regret about it. Towards the end of the movie, Eli comments to Mila Kunis’ character about how he got so caught up in protecting the book that he forgot to live out what the book taught.
The movie’s pro-Christian story is told equally through Denzel’s character and through the villain of the movie, Carnegie -Gary Oldman. Oldman’s character wants the book for its power to give language to the deepest fears in mankind. Once he has ‘their’ ear, he can use ‘them’ to build his empire. It presents a sincere faith in a kingdom not of this world and contrasts with a cold desire for an empire of men’s fears.
Up until the end of the movie it makes no apologies for its assumption that Christianity is the way. The last act of the movie is the weakest part of the film, and the 'bookshelf' scene is no exception. It steals away some of the boldness that the movie builds. Those of you who have watched the movie will know what I am talking about. The newly printed Bible is placed on a shelf beside the Torah, Koran, and other books of religion - almost apologizing for presenting Christianity as the salvation for humanity.
Flaws aside, the movie is a picture of what is taking place within the church today. The lines are being drawn between those who would use the gospel for their own gain and those who are living it. In an era where Jesus has been more polarizing because of His politics than because of his practices, we are seeing an un-muddying of the waters.
As a Christian who is neither red nor blue, nor bound by the moral majority, I can only hope that more movies at least wrestle ideas of the day under the presumption of Christianity’s truth. I think we could all do with less of the End of Days – spawn of satan, tears of blood, old lady demons, God is pissed at the world bullcrap like this weeks opening movie ‘Legion’.