Moving Pictures: Why "Exorcism" Works and "Echoes" Doesn't
- Thursday, September 29, 2005
The Cinderella ending is telegraphed from miles away. If virgins are in such short supply that we need to bribe them into maintaining their vows with promises of faithful multi-millionaire, private jet-owning fantasy lovers then I think the battle is already lost. Isn't simply being faithful enough anymore? In short, the only room left for discussion after the movie revolves around laughing at its overacting villain, trying to untangle confusing episodes (I'm still trying to figure out the bull that suddenly appears to protect Sarah), and wondering about abandoned plot lines.
Though some of the blame for heavy-handed Christian films must be placed on the filmmakers, and the studios that commission these movies, the remainder must rest on those Christians who expect too much of the films they see. I heard some people complain, after "The Passion of the Christ," that not enough time was spent on the resurrection, or that too little of the Gospel was presented, or that too much context was required to understand everything that was going on. Others were disappointed that the film did not result in more on-the-spot conversions – a disappointment confirmed in subsequent research.
To take liberties with the NRA slogan: films don't evangelize people; people evangelize people. Movies get conversations going (better than just about any other cultural activity), but they don't guarantee a destination. Good films are evocative – they move people. When we see and discuss good films, we can ask how and why people are moved. We can ask difficult questions.
For example, I stopped a lot of young adults dead in their ecstatic tracks when, after "Titanic," I posed this simple question: "Based on what the film reveals about Jack's character (unemployed, promiscuous drawer of naked French prostitutes), had he lived instead of died, where do you see his and Rose's relationship five years down the road?" This led to discussions as varied as what qualities one should look for in a mate to the difference between martyrdom and discipleship and which was more difficult. The spiritual implications are legion.
The goal of a filmmaker is effectively to tell a story. The goal of Christians who attend films is to be entertained, but also to look for opportunities. The Apostle Paul told the Colossians to make the most of opportunities to share the Gospel. Paul did so by using Greek poetry to create an opening among the men of Athens at the Areopagus. Jesus told parables.
Filmmakers provide the raw material; MovieMinistry.com can help with tools designed to make engagement easier. But if Christians will demonstrate their media literacy and a willingness to engage, perhaps Christian filmmakers can concentrate more of their energy, as Derrickson and Broad have ably demonstrated can be done, on making evocative films that can move those conversations forward.
Marc T. Newman, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president of MovieMinistry.com (www.movieministry.com) – an organization that provides sermon and teaching illustrations from popular film, and helps the Church use movies to reach out to others and connect with people.
Publication of this analysis does not constitute endorsement of the films discussed. Warning: MPAA has given both of these films PG-13 ratings – "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" for thematic material, including intense/frightening sequences and disturbing images; and "Echoes of Innocence" for sexual content, language, violence and thematic issues.
© 2005 AgapePress. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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