What's the theology beneath the surface of your favorite movie?

Some of the best movies ever made have significant theological or religious themes laying just beneath their surface. For one example we can look at the movie Crash, the 2004 Academy Award winner for Best Picture. An amazing film with a haunting soundtrack, it's many intertwined subplots actually have quite a few religious and spiritual themes, I mention just two, though there's actually many more.

There's the sub-plot story of LAPD Officer John Ryan. Early in the movie he really acts the part of a bad man, he's in a very bad mood one afternoon and pulls over a black couple for basically "driving while black", scares the living hell out of and harasses the husband and then feels up the wife while frisking her, leaving her traumatized from the experience. Later on the wife is involved in a car accident and is trapped in the car, with it flipped over on it's roof and gas leaking all around it. The bad cop now arrives on the scene, and after he enters the car to try and cut her free, she realizes who her "rescuer" is and screams for him to go away. He convinces her that the car is going to go up in a ball of flames any minute and he is all she's got right now. As he is trying to cut her loose the gas around the car ignites and the others outside the car pull Officer Ryan out of the car by his legs to get him out of harm's way. And in an act of redemption the "bad cop" crawls back into the car and pulls the woman out just before the car goes up in a ball of flames.

And there's Anthony, the car-jacking hood. After a car-jacking that goes very badly, ending with the would be victim of the car-jacking taking away Anthony's gun and leaving him so completely humiliated and shamed that the driver actually gives Anthony his gun back before kicking him out of his car, showing his complete lack of fear or respect for the now emasculated car-jacker. For the first time in his life Anthony is aware of his own depravity, and his lack of observing any moral code, and what a pathetic little man he really is. A little while later he comes across the abandoned panel van that was driven by the guy he and his buddy had accidentally run over earlier, and grabs the van he drives it to a chop shop to make a quick buck. Inside the chop shop they find out that inside the back ofthe panel van are a bunch of illegal Thai immigrants, who are here to be sold into underground slave labor in Chinatown and the chop shop owner offers Anthony $500 for each immigrant. For probably the first time in his life Anthony listens to that voice of conscience and does the right thing, turns down the money and drives the immigrants into town and sets them free, while giving them 40 bucks to "go buy some chop suey", he drives off smiling, feeling like a redeemed man.

And don't even get me going about the little girl with the "invisible impenetrable cloak" and the theology of providence.

Anyway, that's the way I see it, anyone want to unearth the theological themes behind their favorite movie

What's the theology beneath the surface of your favorite movie?

You mean Star Wars? :)

my favourite movie is Lord of the Rings.. I think there's quite a bit of theology under the surface of that movie, since it was written by a Catholic and deals with good vs evil themes :)

yes, Lord of the Rings has a lot of theology. I’ve heard it mentioned that the ring represents Original Sin and Frodo respresents the sinless Christ figure that must bear the burden of the Ring/Sin to save the world

[quote="chevalier, post:2, topic:195837"]
You mean Star Wars? :)

[/quote]

maybe Star Wars could represent theology for nerds ;)

[quote="Quid_estVeritas, post:4, topic:195837"]
yes, Lord of the Rings has a lot of theology. I've heard it mentioned that the ring represents Original Sin and Frodo respresents the sinless Christ figure that must bear the burden of the Ring/Sin to save the world

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I wouldn't say Frodo fully represents the figure of Christ, as eventually he fell to the will of the Ring in the end. In that element Tolkien kind of missed the mark.

My very very favourite movie to date is…

http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B00003CXBH.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg
Robert DeNero and Jeremy Irons as Jesuits in South America! A first rate movie!! A deep and** rich** spirituality pervades the entire story! I watched it at least a** dozen** times! There is soooooooo much in this movie!! There is one scene (close to the end) where the Bishop and the Jesuit Superior are in conversation and some children run up to them and speak to the Jesuit in their language and later the Bishop says “what did the children say to you” and the superior replied “They said they did not want to go back into the forest because they are afraid.” The Bishop than asked “What did you say to them” the Jesuit Superior replied, I told them ,* “I will be with you :bighanky:”. ***
Just as the Lord tells each of us, each day!

I am not sure that Tolkien meant Frodo to be a Christ figure. As I recall (its been 30 years since I read the books), Tolkien included a preface which stated his deep dislike of allegory.

Lewis can be read allegorically, but I am not sure the same can be said for Tolkien.

I don't know that Pulp Fiction actually has that much theology :p

... mind you, there is that whole bible-quoting scene where Samuel L Jackson talks about how he first quoted merely because it sounded cool, but then started thinking abou the meaning of what he was saying ... :cool: :thumbsup:

Hmmm…I guess my favorites would be “Network” (1976) and “Meet John Doe” (1941), fairly similar premises done in two very different ways (I’d say one is pessimistic while the other is more optimistic, I’d also say that one is unbelievably prophetic). I guess the main underlying themes of both are that of having false gods and exploiting the weak. They both attack, in their own way, the false gods of media, television, power and fame and both feature a poor or weak (mentally or physically) character being exploited by the powerful and corrupt.

My other favorite movie is “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” but I don’t think has any specific theology to it…:smiley:

No, no specific theology, not in this scene especially …

[clop clop clop]
[boom boom]
[angels sing]
GOD:
Arthur! Arthur, King of the Britons! Oh, don’t grovel!
[singing stops]
One thing I can’t stand, it’s people groveling.
ARTHUR:
Sorry.
[boom]
GOD:
And don’t apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it’s ‘sorry this’ and ‘forgive me that’ and ‘I’m not worthy’.
[boom]
What are you doing now?!
ARTHUR:
I’m averting my eyes, O Lord.
GOD:
Well, don’t. It’s like those miserable Psalms-- they’re so depressing. Now, knock it off!
ARTHUR:
Yes, Lord.
GOD:
Right! Arthur, King of the Britons, your Knights of the Round Table shall have a task to make them an example in these dark times.
ARTHUR:
Good idea, O Lord!
GOD:
'Course it’s a good idea! Behold!
[angels sing]
Arthur, this is the Holy Grail. Look well, Arthur, for it is your sacred task to seek this grail. That is your purpose, Arthur: the quest for the Holy Grail.
[boom]
[singing stops]
LAUNCELOT:
A blessing! A blessing from the Lord!
GALAHAD:
God be praised!

That being said, the Holy Grail is one of my all-time favourites.

[quote="LilyM, post:9, topic:195837"]
I don't know that Pulp Fiction actually has that much theology :p

[/quote]

It does remind one of a couple of OT women. :p

WEll, I’m not much for movies, but I love book and tv series. I’d say one of the better thought provoking series I like has the message of, Can means justify the end? Yes? No? Why? Why not? How far do you go to make your means moral, then? Can good always conquer evil? And finally, when all else fails…are you willing to give your very life for what you believe in?

It explores every facet of that question; do ends justify means. It shows the view Catholics agree with, that no they don’t. It shows another side, with characters believeing you should do ANYthing to get a just end. There are those who follow the former, but would do ANYTHING, immoral or no, when it came to saving a life, saving 100, saving themselves. it never makes you choose a side, or tries to glorify one side. It just shows each, in challenging and heartbreaking ways

Release the holy hand grenades!

[quote="chevalier, post:13, topic:195837"]
It does remind one of a couple of OT women. :p

[/quote]

Hmm, dare I ask which OT women?

[quote="shondrea, post:15, topic:195837"]
Release the holy hand grenades!

[/quote]

How could I forget!? There is, of course, the engaging discourse from Armaments!:p

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is all about vocation and the sacrifices people will make to follow God’s call.

“Many are called; few are chosen.”

Betsy

I felt the same way for years as a LOTR fan. But I came to discover that it’s not Frodo representing a Christ figure at all. He only resembles Christ in the carrying of the burden of sins. He really also represents us as human beings, fallible, and ultimately concupiscent, weak, and not perfect enough to resist the power of the ring. LOTR is holistic. Gandalf, Galadriel, Sam, and ultimately Bilbo all represent parts of the whole who save Middle Earth, not just Frodo. The common interpretation that Frodo is somehow Jesus just because he carried the Sin doesn’t make him an allegory for the Lord. Frodo is more like St. Peter in the end than Christ.

As another forum member and I were discussing about six months ago, it is really BILBO who is the hero of the Lord of the Rings. Bilbo is the one who spares Gollum’s life, showing not only mercy, but a part of a divine providence as it is Gollum who jumps Frodo, wakes him up out of his selfishness, and in Gollum’s death Frodo is saved and the ring destroyed. I think Lord of the Rings is more about destiny, providence, purpose, and standing up to evil but realizing we’re all weak and fallible, prone to evil, and we need something higher and we need each other in the struggle. Each person in the story is a part of a greater whole, a holy purpose, Frodo is no better than the rest really. The whole point of him being selfish at the end and a failure shows that we can’t make it on our own, that we need God. Some people go a little over the top comparing Galadriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, etc. but I think the overall spirit of the tale is more important than individual characters who do not fit a particular mold.

Another movie with deep spiritual and religious themes is The Thin Red Line, which ironically stars Jim Caviezel before he even got into his Christ playing days. At the end of the movie Jim’s Private Witt sacrifices himself to save his platoon from getting wiped out by a much larger battalion of Japanese soldiers.

And you also have the constant interplay between Jim’s theist Private Witt and Sean Penn atheist 1st Sgt. Edward Welsh, the back and forth between them and how they see the world *IS *the point of the movie.

And it’s got some of the best quotes and voice-overs during scenes you’ll ever find, some serious theology and spirituality in them;

Private Witt: [voice over] “One man looks at a dying bird and thinks there’s nothing but unanswered pain. That death’s got the final word, it’s laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird, feels the glory, feels something smiling through it.”

Private Witt: [voice over] “everyone lookin’ for salvation by himself. Each like a coal thrown from the fire.”

Private Edward Train: [narrating] “What is this great evil? How did it steal into the world? From what seed, what root did it spring? Who’s doing this? Who’s killing us? Robbing us of light and life. Mocking us with the sight of what we might have known.”

Japanese Soldier: [voice over] “Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your suffering will be any less because you loved goodness and truth?”

Private Witt: [voice over] “What’s this war in the heart of nature? Why does nature vie with itself? The land contend with the sea? Is there an avenging power in nature? Not one power, but two?”

Private Witt: [voice over] “We were a family. How’d it break up and come apart, so that now we’re turned against each other? Each standing in the other’s light. How’d we lose that good that was given us? Let it slip away. Scattered it, careless. What’s keepin’ us from reaching out, touching the glory?”

First Sgt. Edward Welsh: “There’s not some other world out there where everything’s gonna be okay. There’s just this one, just this rock.”

First Sgt. Edward Welsh: “In this world, a man, himself, is nothing. And there ain’t no world but this one.”

Private Witt: “You’re wrong there, Top. I seen another world. Sometimes I think it was just my imagination.”

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