Posts Tagged ‘Satan’

What Should My Family and I Watch During Holy Week?

April 6, 2009

Easter is coming in a few short weeks! As the non-Christian world grabs onto parts of our traditions, they still come up rather bunny-centric. Still, if you check your local listings, the Bible seems to be dusted off and handed to the network scheduling department this time of year. From the looks of some of their productions, it seems most just flipped through and looked at the pictures, where others seem to do a decent job of portraying the messages in an accurate way.

Now the first thing to realize is that movies are a different medium than a book. Things will have to be changed just to make the jump. On top of that, the Bible is not usually stories, but histories. Thus, to make a film, the story must be extracted from the history. With this in mind, a fun family night might be reading the Bible account and then watching the movie. (Sometimes we would do the Bible account over morning devotions beforehand .) Then we discussed what was changed and why. Most changes are made for dramatic interest, to simplify for a modern culture (like Moses’ 2 brothers in  Prince of Egypt: ). If there is going to be a problem with the changes, it’s often that they try to remove the supernatural from the story (“Peter and Paul” with Anthony Hopkins) or try to make God into the universal force for good in all men (“The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston).

I am always up for a well done Bible story, (I recommend Testament: The Bible in Animation) but moving toward the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead, you may want to focus on Jesus himself!

There are some very good films with Jesus; there are also some awful ones.

Of course The Passion of the Christ” is the obvious front runner. Picking up the story of Jesus in the Garden as he prays for the cup to be taken away, this is the struggle between the ultimate powers in the universe. Casting Jesus in the mode of sacrificial superhero, he battles to give up his life for the world, as Satan tries to stop the sacrifice. This is intermingled with flashbacks from Jesus’ life that become much more poignant when put in the framework of his death.

Then there is the Campus Crusade funded “Jesus Film” that goes almost word for word from the gospel of Luke. This is not as well done a film. It’s more a well done book on tape with nice pictures. (You can see the movie on line.)

Friends of mine who are now going to work for the “Jesus Film” ministry have just told me about the next development. The “Visual Translation” of the Jesus film will use the vocal tracks and then add all new music and sound effects for an anime version of the film. This new version is being headed up by director Barry Cook and you can see animatics of two of the scenes on their web pagehttp://whoishe.org/animationproject

I personally love The Miracle Maker“. This is the story of Jesus done by an amazing Russian Claymation team and an English group doing traditional animation used for flashbacks and whenever something spiritual (like the casting out of demons) happens. The story is sewn together by the struggles of a religious leader and his sick daughter. Will he let her suffer, or will he bring her to Jesus to be healed? This film spent months in the theaters in England . Here, it was shown once on ABC family before going to DVD; how sad.

You can now watch the Miracle Maker on line at Hulu.com

This may also be a good time to introduce your family to “Godspell: A Musical Based on the Gospel of St. Matthew .” This very quirky (read – “Weird”) offering from the 70’s has a group of thrift shop sheik hippies called out of the world of New York to act out the parables through the streets and monuments of the city that doesn’t sleep. They often move events to offer thematic continuity and artistic comment. At one point Jesus faces the “Pharisee Monster” who hits him with all the questions that are sprinkled throughout the gospels. This confrontation ends with an artistic representation of the cleansing of the temple. In the stage show the Resurrection is incorporated into the curtain call. Here we are told it will happen in the closing songs and then see New York go back to its life without taking notice of the gift it has been given. (There is also the unintentional irony of the song “All For The Best” and it’s big finial on the twin towers.)

Of course if 70’s hippy rock is not your thing; The Jesus story is narrated and serenaded by the Man in Black himself in Johnny Cash’s Gospel Road.

Taking one step away you have “Ben Hur”. Tied for having received the most Oscars ever, this swashbuckling Charlton Heston classic shows a man’s spiritual journey to forgiveness set against the backdrop of the Gospel story. This is a great movie for people who know the story of Jesus. You will see more of the story by filling in the blanks.

In “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, ” we have Jesus interjected into a fantasy world . Here we see the sacrifice of Jesus illustrated in thematically graphic and personal terms. We can all relate to selling out all we should love for brief personal pleasure or “sweeties”. It is wonderful to see Jesus as Lord of everything, even the imagination of man, in the character of Aslan.

Finally , we can look at movies that offer us “types o f Christ.”A “ type” is a character that has their own story but , when you stand back from the details, you see the story of Jesus. In the Bible, characters like Joseph ( who is sacrificed by his family, and then goes on to become ruler and savior) and Jonah ( sent with a message to a foreign land, sacrificed, “resurrected” 3 days later to offer repentance) are types of Christ. Jesus even references Jonah as a type in Matthew 12:38-41 Matthew 16:4, and Luke 11:29-32 .

Fiction writers have also used the “type of Christ” to allow their story to point to Jesus. This is very popular with film makers. Just check out the trailer for the recent  “Superman Returns”.

In the film (or film series, depending on your point of view) “Lord of the Rings”, there are three characters that point to Jesus. In “Fellowship of the Rings” you see Frodo and the Ring. The Ring is the force of evil in the world. Frodo, though it is not his to deal with, takes the evil of the ring on himself and bares it in order to destroy it. In “The Two Towers” we re-visit the sacrifice of Gandalf. We are reminded that he gave himself to save his friends from a demon (another symbol of evil) and was then sent back to be with them in the battle. Thirdly in “Return of the King” (as if that title isn’t a dead giveaway) we see Aragorn enter into the realm of those living in death because they refused to follow the king. He enters death to give the people an offer : You may follow me and I will set you free from this death. His later rule as king is a nod to the second coming of Christ.

In the 1954 Marlon Brando /Karl Malden classic, “On The Waterfront”, a local priest realizes that Jesus would not stand by and let mob bosses and crime ruin the people he is supposed to be serving. In a wonderful speech we are told that when people are killed for doing what is right, it is a crucifixion. This sets us up for a “ type of Christ” I call “the freedom bringer.” (SPOILER) At the end of the movie, Marlon Brando’s character has decided to stand up to the mob. The result is that they take him out back, with all the waterfront workers standing helplessly aside, and beat him within an inch of his life. This is where we see an illustration of the resurrection and the people set free. This is also the movie with the famous “Could have been a contender” speech.

Will Smith‘s “I Am Legend” is a dark film about zombie/vampires. It is being released on DVD in time for Easter. This may seem like an oversight, but it may have been a part of a marketing plan. By the end of the film you realize that the Zombies are symbolism for a people infected with evil who need the blood from a sacrificial savior to release them from there torment. (You can read my full review here.) I have heard that the DVD has two versions of the film. I have seen the theatrical version and can not comment on the alternate version.

You can also see acts that artistically bring to mind Jesus ’ sacrifice in movies like “To End All Wars” , “Man On Fire” , “Meet John Doe” , and “I Robot” . “I Robot” has the entire trinity, but unfortunately also has weirdly pro-cussing messages.

Unfortunately, some films will use the connection to Jesus to bring a “new” message or to suggest Christianity to be wrong. Where The Matrix’s Neo, Star Wars’ Anakin , and “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” all have used the character of Jesus and even some of his words, they are not there to point you to Jesus , but away — or beyond — him ( as some of the film makers may tell you) .

What Is Your Recommendation?

As part of your family time this season, it would be great to find one of  these films that would be appropriate for your entire family. Then, do not just watch it together. Afterward, talk about what the film was saying about Jesus. Who in the film emulated the person of Jesus? What characteristics did the character share with Jesus and what was different? And what do I notice about Jesus that I may not have seen before or have not though t about in a while?

This is just another fun way to have film watching do more than just fill a couple of hours.

For more – Check out the Q&E Extra – The 6 Jesuses of Film and Literature

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A Look at Horror, Monster and Scary Movies

October 11, 2008

It’s beginning to look a lot like….

 

We are in an odd season. Here we are celebrating things that “go bump in the night”. TV and movies have joined the festivities. So, with little hope of finding “Harvest Party the Movie”, what is a Christian to do?  

If we look in the Bible, what do we see in regards to evil and monsters?

From Cain and Abel to the martyring of the two witnesses in the book of Revelation, we see all manner of evil acts by all manner of people. The prophet Daniel sees a vision of monsters attacking the world, John sees a great dragon chase a woman to devour her baby.  Even the living creators that encircle the throne of God have a monstrous edge to them. So if the Bible does not shy away from evil, and even monsters like demons, dragons and Satan himself, what do we do with modern depictions of them?
 

First, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:11 “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”   As Christians, it is not only our duty to avoid participation in evil, but to show evil for what it truly is.

Film writer/director Scott Derrickson told World Magazine “Horror is the genre with the most sensitive moral compass. No other genre defines good and evil better. No other genre allows for spiritual and religious  ntent more than horror…The danger of the genre is that it can easily cross over into exploitation”   So what is being shown to us in the movies?

In “The Screwtape Letters” CScott Derrickson.S. Lewis said that demons (the teachers of evil ideas 1 Timothy 4:1) either want us to believe that they do not exist or be obsessed with them. We see this in film today. Most movies that include monsters and images of evil are either harmless because we do not believe in “real” evil. Movies like Scary Movie” and “Casper” just use these images as something to laugh or cue at. Or, in “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas“, darkness is just there for goth teens to say “cool” under their breath. Then there is the other side, focused too much. Movies like “Freddie vs. Jason” and “Scream” present killings and evil in a pornographic manner for us to revel in.  

So do we ever see anyone get it right?

Movies that present evil as something hideous and terrible, and at the same time, not something to revel in? J.R.R. Tolkien said that the best “fairy” stories are not primarily concerned with the fairies themselves, but he people in the stories. The magical element helps us to see a bit of the human condition. The same is true of the best monster movies. It turns out that monsters of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s  were just that. The idea of many was that turning from God and His natural order produces monsters.

Dracula  was a parody of Jesus, an anti-Jesus who was stopped by the power of Christ. It was a graphic llustration of the biblical fact that those who are living in their sins are dead, though they live. (1 Timothy 5:6) Frankenstein was trying to take the place of God and create a person in his own image. Dr. Jekyll was trying to separate himself from his evil side without God. Instead he created and fed a monster who was a personification of his “fleshly lusts” (thus the name “Hyde”). Movies made about these characters don’t allways stick to the source material, and thus the original symbolism. (While the 1940’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde expanded on the Biblical symbolism, “Mary Riley” is  Jekyll and Hyde story that tones down the human nature – sin stuff.) Some just take the monsters and use them for cheap thrills with no real meaning (“League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, “Van Helsing”).  

 

You can see a biblical use of monster symbolism in the vampire flick “The Addiction.” Here being a vampire is only the full realization of your sin nature. A philosophy student (played by Lili Taylor) deals with the problem of evil in the world as she fights her longing for blood now that she is a vampire. She goes through every philosophy of dealing with her sin nature from Buddhism (with Christopher Walken) to Hedonism
(one of the grossest scenes in the film). Finally (Spoiler) with quotes from “R.C. Sprol” she takes communion and Jesus Christ is the answer to vampirism and our sin nature.  

 

In “Deceived” a group of scientists, clergy, and military men are trying to contact aliens. Here they are trying to use these communications from the aliens as a source of salvation outside of God (though the more they interact with the alien’s messages, the more they are driven to horrible and sinful acts from greed/lust to
murder).  (Spoiler) The source of the transmissions is demons and Biblical salvation is the only way to protect yourself from its influence.  

 

In M. Night Shyamalan‘s “The Village” the people are surrounded by woods where horrible creatures live, but  he movie is really an experiment in human nature. It explores the question: “Is society the cause of evil, or is man inherently sinful?”.

 

In his earlier film, “Signs“, the monsters are aliens in the sky. As Mel Gibson and the rest of the cast worry and wonder about the creatures’ existence, M. Night’s movie asks the question: “If there is something evil coming to you, is God there to take care of you?”.  

 

Aforementioned filmmaker Scott Derrickson invites the audience to consider if it’s possible that a spiritual world could exist in the courtroom drama/demonic thriller “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”.  

 

Then, on the other end of the scale, there is the Frank Perettie adaptation of “The Hang Man’s Curse“. A highly trained Christian family takes on a school that is plagued by cult activities and its curse. The feel is on a par with “Buffy/Angel” style production and speaks to the issues of suicide and the sanctity of life.

Also from Perettie, The Visitation is a “direct to video” horror… e r… creepy film. A Midwest town is put on the map when miraculous signs start invading their benign existence. From supernatural healings to the likeness of Jesus’ face in the stained tile of the bathroom wall, everyone is touched by the accompanying message : “He Is Coming.” Revival meetings start. One pastor (Randy Travis) believes this may be demonic. One former pastor (Martin Donovan) believes this may be linked to the ritualistic murder of his wife. One mom  (Kelly Lynch) is fearful her son (Noah Segan) is in danger and the son, along with most the town, believes that a messiah has come for them… and maybe he has.

 

You could go back a couple more years to “Bless the Child.” Here a little girl is anointed by God to lead many to Him. Thus a demonically powered cult (with a “new age” cover) tries to destroy the girl. It’s a b movie with
it’s heart in the right place. The problem with this one is that it is not clear if the girl is a “type” of Christ Biblically pointing to Him with similarities) or a “new Christ” (blasphemously replacing Him).

 

Finaly, we have “Pirates of the Caribbean – The Curse of the Black Pearl”. Here we get a ghost story with pirates, and Johny Depp… how cool is that. Once again, going against God creates monsters. There are plenty of refernces to Biblical Christianity to say we are going with that world view. The Pirates have stolen gold from heathen gods, and now, they have wealth and power, but no pleasure. The greed for wealth has poisoned everything else, creating creatures that are not dead, but they are not really living. There is also
a great conversation that goes in very well with Matthew 6:21.

What is Your Recommendation?

Maybe this October 31, you will want to have a little “truth about evil” film festival while you and your friends enjoy popcorn and snacks, as you hand out full-sized candy bars (with invitations to your church youth group and “Do You Want To Know God Personally” books strapped to them) to any spooks that happen to interrupt, as they pass by. Who knows, a “Hey, whatcha watchin’?” may turn into one of the most important conversations of their life.