Hollywood, Movies, and a Culture of Life vs. Death

Well, if you have been following some of the comments on this post the last couple of days you would realize what a difficult and interesting topic this issue is. That is why I am really interested in pursuing it this week.

Let me clairfy something from the outset. I do not believe that a movie has to be a blockbuster, or joyous, or present a good message for it to be worth watching. There are amazing movies out there that reveal a side of us that we hardly know is there at times. Not all movies point to something full of hope or transcendent. And not all movies glorify the message that is in the movie.

Some movie names have been thrown around the last couple of days: Movies like Fight Club, American Beauty, Cider House Rules, etc. All these deal with very difficult, and not very redeeming subjects.

I happen to work in a church where the majority of the people work in the entertainment industry, so movies and the LA, and Hollywood culture is very much a part of our ministry.

I am of the belief though, that a good movie, no matter how dark or depressing the theme is, must have some message of redemption in it, no matter how small, or big. Whether it’s a flower that is blooming in a desolate batttlefield, showing the redemptive act of life.

This is an interesting and controversial subject because many questions are soon raised, and different issues looked at when one is operating out of a Christian mindset as opposed to others. One of my favorite professors at Fuller Theological Seminary is Robert Johnston, who writes a lot on the theology of movies. His books are really worth reading.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love to read existential philosophy and literature, like those of Camus, Satre, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Heidegger, etc. And when reading these authors it is very easy to see what I mean by those who are able to look at the darker side of life, yet reveal a side of redemption that we often miss. Dostoyevsky and Kierkegaard are highly melanchology and depressing at times, but so redemptive. Dostoyevsky can write about a character who is about as dark a figure as one can imagine, but is able to bring about a scene of redemption in an interaction with a prostitute (Notes from the Underground). While people like Camus write about death and distraught figures, and that is the end. No hope for life, no hope for redemption. Of course, this is a somewhat generalization, but true enough.

I would like to see Hollywood bring about messages and themes of redemption in their films. But like I said, maybe that is asking too much. Or maybe we need to look closer. My professor loved the film Monster’s Ball, and the redemptive message he saw in the film. But that movie would have been banned in most Christian circles as too sexually graphic. So what is the balance? And what makes a good film?

I would like to hear from you. What makes a good film? Do films need to have some redeeming message in them, even in the midst of the darkness?

Cameron at Summa Aesthetica has been posting on this issue as of late, and he has some good things to say.

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