Monday, October 29, 2007

What happens when The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe meets Friedrich Nietzsche

Any flick with Nicole Kidman, Sam Elliot and Daniel Craig sounds like a pretty nice piece of celluloid. Not so according to an email I received from a fellow Southie earlier today. It seems The Catholic League is mounting a protest against the upcoming film, The Golden Compass.

The fuss is not so much over the film itself, but in regard to the book on which it is based, The Northern Lights. Written by "militant atheist" Philip Pullman, The Northern Lights (released in the US as The Golden Compass) is a subtle refutation of the spirituality in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. The two books that follow The Golden Compass, however, fairly drip with anti-God sentiment and, at least from The Catholic League's perspective, anti-Catholic drivel as well.

I checked out the trailer and, frankly speaking, it is amazing. I felt an instant pang of guilt for wanting to see a film that has already earned such negative reviews form Christian folks. What to do, what to do? Should I protest. Should I acquiesce? Should I give up and just remain silent?

How about this. What would happen if myself and other Christians co-opted the film as an opportunity to talk about good versus evil. Perhaps by discussing the very existence of good and evil we confirm that there is a God. In The Problem of Pain, for instance, Lewis discusses the presence of evil as a confirmation of God's existence.

I suspect I will go and see the movie. I certainly will read Pullman's book. If I want to be able to engage our world where our world is at, then, like Paul, I'm going to have to climb the steps to the Areopagus and sit among the thinkers who influence the direction of our culture.


Anonymous said...

This movie looks great. I think I would also enjoy reading the book and then watching it.

I don't understand why this movie is being protested. Did Christians protest Transformers or 2001 because they implied something other than God giving life? Do we protest the Incredibles because people have "powers" beyond that of what God gives to man?

There are truths everywhere. In Acts 17 Paul did not condemn all the false gods worshipped at Athens. Instead he took the culture in, and used one of their own altars to introduce them to the Real God, or to make the unknown known. Movies like this are a great opportunity. Someone in "the world" has the idea of something bigger then them out there, and we know what that is.

Explaining that will show God's love better than a protest any day.


RDale said...

I don't care who protests - with Nicole Kidman in the movie (and presumably keeping her clothes on) I'll be in line on day 1...

optikos said...

I saw The golden compass last night at the sneak-preview here in Plano TX. Although I have not read the book that it was based on, as a Catholic, I do sort of wonder what all of the fuss is about. (I had better read up on the subtleties of what is going on here.)

But getting back to what I saw last night. I saw a film that was definitely intended to be in the same niche as the film adaptations of The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. Indeed, if someone had told me that it was based on a book by a Christian writer, I would interpret the methaphors and allegories as the following [no direct plot spoiler's here, but some more-abstract spoilers, if you want to preserve the magic of how all of this is revealed in the movie]:

1) dust = God's grace that flows through our soul into our lives. They even had an animation of grace/dust flowing from the starry heavens through the animal companion/soul into some hiker in the land of the Ice Bears.;

2) companion animal = soul represented concretely so that children (and adult) audiences can understand their own internal soul better in our universe;

3) the shape-shifting companion animal of children versus the settled companion animal for adults = the possibilities, the innocence, and wonderment of childhood as opposed to the responsibilities of careerpath in adulthood;

4) the ability of children to speak directly with their companion animal = the ability of children to have a more innocent, direct relationship with God that fades over time as the responsibilities of careerpath/money (on the "positive" side) increase and as sin (on the negative side) is committe as we become adults;

5) alethiometer, which relies on dust inside it and can be used only by people who can properly meditate on its meaning = God's grace can reveal truth in its purest form. This truth can set you free. The meditation in the movie vaguely resembles praying, but does not refer to God.;

6) Magisterium = a unification of several branches of elites in our world: Certainly the Magisterium is full of scientists who want to A) deny the existence of dust and soul, B) when presented with evidence of dust and soul, try to divorce humanity from its connection with God, and C) reshape all of humankind into an image of their making rather than God's making by implementing their plan during childhood by splitting the soul away from the self. Other than its logo and its uniform in the movie, the Magisterium appears to be our worldwide dogmatic atheistic science rather than a dogmatic theistic religion. The M-centered logo moderately strongly resembles a symbol which has been used for centuries for Mary and which is a symbol of the Roman Cathoic church itself (as the Vatican presents the once-unified Catholic & Eastern Orthodox Church as Christ's bride, analogous to God the Father taking Mary as his bride, of sorts, to father the human form of Jesus). The look and uniform of the Magisterium strongly resembles Catholic & Eastern Orthodox priests and bishops. Indeed, they even cast Sir Darek Jacobi (of Brother Cadfael fame) as one of the top leaders of Magisterium, which furthers the Catholic ties. Btw, as reported by my wife, who is proficient in Russian language, the language of the Tartars is Russian in the movie, not Turkish or another Turkic-family language. She also reports that the English subtitles did not perfectly match what was said in Russian, but was mostly similar. The Tartars were the military branch of the Magisterium's empire.

6) Nicole Kidman's character, Ms. Coulter, is presented as a Cruella De Vil-like 100% evil type of person, whose animal companion soul appears to be fully engaged in advancing her evil instead of directing her away from it. That sounds a lot like a fallen soul in league with Satan to me.

7A) The witches ability to be far away from their animal companion = angels' ability to be distant from heaven in our world. The witches definitely resembled the concept of angels to me, both in metaphorical dress, the way that they appeared and disappeared by fading in and out, and, most importantly, the fact that they fought on the side of Good in the movie, but the Sam Elliot character, Lee Scoresby, alluded to the capability for some witches to fight for the side of Evil. That sounds like good angels in Heaven versus fallen angels in Hell to me.


7B) The witches ability to be far away from their animal companion = As a person dabbles in the occult, they distance themselves from God's grace.

None of this sounds atheistic to me. I see some form of theism all throughout what I wrote above and in what I saw in the movie last night. Indeed, I don't see some pagan pantheistic nonChristian theism of leprechauns or Chinese/Native-American God of This and God of That either. I see a struggle between Good versus Evil. In this Good versus Evil struggle portrayed in the movie, I definitely see the thousand-year-old view of Thomas Acquinas, where all good in this world flows from God's grace and all evil is caused by purging God's grace from some zone, forming some "hole" in the world through which evil may enter the world. And, oh my, does money and power and science poke a bunch of holes all over the place for the evil to flow in. Not that Good desires to eliminate money and power and science; rather, Good must teach money and power and science to minimize/eliminate the gaping holes through which evil can flow in by channeling their productive capacity in the correct direction. (This is all very related to the Catholic good works, where humankind must work as the Dutch boy plugging all of the holes in the dike to patch over all of the holes that let evil in.) Except for the science-Catholic-intertwined Magisterium, I have yet to devise an interpretation of the movie that I saw last evening as a godless, anti-Christian message. Indeed, with the proper parental guidance (regarding the movie at least; I don't know about the book), it can be used as a delivery vehicle to teach to children some rather difficult-to-teach abstract concepts in Christianity.

But perhaps it is so well sugar-coated and such cleverly-crafted propaganda that I am not seeing some clever, deep, devilish debasement of all of Christianity.

Personally I am vastly more concerned with what appears in the majority of commercial advertising and throughout the majority of rock/popular music as a method of propagandizing and reprogramming humankind in godless ways than I am in this trilogy of movies, so far at least. I had better read the books to see what is coming in parts 2 and 3.