I watched two movies this past week that brought out some strong emotions in me. When I asked my friends about their opinions, I was surprised to hear that they had not experienced or even seen the same things I had seen. Well, that merited some thought on my part as to what exactly I was responding to, so here are my conclusions. Please be warned that if you have not seen these movies, there might be some spoilers included below.
1. No Country For Old Men. This movie is garnering a lot of attention and nominations for its quirky characters and clever script. I went into it expecting to be intrigued. Halfway though the film, I wondered if I should walk out. I found it altogether too dark and somewhat predictable in that "I've got an awful feeling about this" way. I stayed to the end, which contained a huge dark stain followed by a glimpse of light. I left the theatre bothered, feeling ill at ease. Like I should take some action to make things right, but there was nothing to do. Indeed, the script and directing and acting display quite a bit of talent, but the story is heinous. It is a horrific chase. One man kills everything that stands between him and some money (and some random people he happens to encounter, just because it is what he does) in the most cold-blooded and calculating manner, yet he comes off as strangely interesting and fascinating. Or at least he is supposed to. And I think that is what bothered me the most: that something this evil can be made to fascinate us. Yes, the film is new and innovative, but I find that what we hail as original is often something that dares to cross a line of good taste or perhaps moral codes and titillates us for a moment, but in the end, adds nothing to us and has no lasting value. Every character in the movie, save a few, sacrifices themselves to the money. Innocence is mowed down and stomped on and obliterated at every turn. What is intriguing about that?
2. I am Legend. This story is also about a chase. One man is trying to survive in a world devastated by a horrible virus that turned most humans into savages. Yes, the dark souls chase him, but that is not the real chase. The real hunt is this sole survivor's fight against isolation, time, danger, and difficulty in order to find a cure for the very ones who are out to kill him. It is his sole purpose for surviving. Sure, the story is not that clever (some say it is too similar to 28 Days Later) or the dialogue that unique or original and there are some continuity and consistency issues, but the character has a big heart - he believes in something important. I find that talent is no substitute for belief. It is not money that he chases. It is salvation. The main character quotes one of his heroes, Bob Marley, reminding himself that evil does not take a day off, so neither can he.
I have been told that I cannot properly separate fiction from fact and that is why I sometimes overreact. While I will admit a certain truth in that observation, in another way I believe I am onto something. We are one - whole beings. We were never meant to separate our lives and selves into all these different compartments. What happens in our body, in our mind, in our emotions, in our work, in our play, in our imaginations - all these things affect us as people and it is naive to deny that this is so. How ridiculous to assume that what touches one part of me will have no affect on who I am or my wholeness as a human being. This is by no means an advocation of avoidance, but an encouragement to enter the correct chase. What are you chasing? What are you serving? What are you sacrificing for?
This is some snowy foliage behind my house.