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By In Film, Podcast

Episode 10: A Review of the Movie Dunkirk

In this episode of the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast, Pastor Andrew Isker and Sean Johnson offer a review of  “Dunkirk” – a 2017 war film written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan.

Dunkirk is set in May of 1940, when Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.

Michael O’Sullivan of the Washington Post described Dunkirk as uncomfortable to watch, “it never relents or relaxes. At the same time, it’s impossible to look away from it.”

Sean Johnson also offered a written review of Dunkirk for FilmFisher.

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By In Film

Wall-E and the New Creation

Guest Post by Remy Wilkins

In an inverse Eden, a land laid waste, one works alone tending the trash. There are none like him in all the earth, inquisitive, playful and most drawn to those mysterious, dancing bipedal creatures who lost earth and left it to go wandering the vast wilderness of space. Humans have been driven from the earth by a flood of garbage, leaving in an ark designed not to keep them safe, but to keep them away. Only Wall-E remains the last Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class.

As he navigates past derelict robots we realize that what separates him from the rest is his ingenuity and love of the earth. He has made a home, adopting the practices of humanity, he takes off his shoes, collects parts so that he may service himself and, most importantly, he rests. His rests are not the pragmatic powering-down kind, though he does that as well, his rest is in play. He collects doodads and thingamabobs and practices his dance moves, but he also takes time to study the numinous.

I was introduced to the numinous secondhand by the intellectual spendthrift C.S. Lewis, but the word was popularized by the German theologian Rudolf Otto. He defined the numinous experience as having in addition to the tremendum, the tendency to invoke fear and trembling, a quality of fascinans, the tendency to fascinate and compel. This numinous experience, however, is not impersonal, but there is a feeling of communion with a wholly other.

Wall-E demonstrates this yearning for the numinous in his nightly examination of Hello, Dolly, particularly that most visually ephemeral emotion of Love. He sees hand-holding, he fiddles with his own clunky hands, he records Cornelius and Mrs. Molloy singing:

It only takes a moment
To be loved a whole life long.

Later he plays a snippet of the song as he stares into the night sky. Clearly, he is looking for someone. He has friendship in the form of Hal the roach, but he has yet to discover that divine spark of love. (more…)

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By In Culture, Film

Beauty and the Mark of the Beast

beast

“Winter turns to spring / Famine turns to feast / Nature points the way / Nothing left to say / Beauty and the Beast.” -Mrs. Potts

 

“Sleep is an image of death that is repeated every night. So the morning is the image of the resurrection. So the spring of the year is an image of the resurrection.” –Jonathan Edwards

How will the dark curse be broken? Sacrificial love. In the stunning new remake of Beauty and the Beast, Disney stayed true to this central theme. And why shouldn’t they? After all, it’s a “tale as old as time.” It’s the epical story of resurrection and the path thereunto. Indeed, the curse being broken by love is the story of all time, true as it can be.

The curse leveled by the beggar-woman in the opening scene is death, but not an immediately obvious sort of death. Those under the curse, while turned to dishware and furniture, can still move, speak, etc. Yet, they are somehow not themselves. The longer they live under the curse, the less themselves they become. It’s hard to hear Mr. Clocksworth lament, “I feel myself becoming less human” without being aware of one’s own inhumanity. Who hasn’t felt like a shadow of who they’re created to be? On a heart level, even if one doesn’t believe in the deep magic found in Scripture, who hasn’t nevertheless longed for the spell under which we live to be broken?

The only path back to life is love, and Belle—the stranger held captive in the castle—is lovely. Naturally, the creatures of the house seek to charm Belle into love. Likewise, the Beast bangs on the door, demanding a romantic dinner. Yet, their salvation can’t be secured by such measures.

Ironically, love comes when Belle is released from captivity, as she runs away from the property back to her father. In a beautiful scene on the castle’s balcony, Belle asks the Beast, “Can anyone truly love who isn’t free?” At that, the Beast turns Belle away. By the end of the movie, the Beast and the entire castle-staff die. And Belle weeps.

While Belle is good, she’s not the Beast’s good, not yet. Taking her life giving kiss—which she only offers at the end of the movie—without first sending her away would have been temporary security, but a final sort of death ultimately. On the balcony, the Beast understands a deep mystery; love will come through loneliness, Spring through Winter, feast through famine. So he sends Belle away and walks into the darkness.

In Scripture, life always comes through first choosing death. The way up is down. Commenting on Revelation, Peter Leithart makes the easily missed point that seal and mark are juxtaposed from one another. Those 144,000 people sealed by God in chapter 7 are set-aside for death. Those with the mark of the beast in chapter 13, however, are free to buy and sell goods—they feast, they live. Says Leithart:

“Those who do not receive the mark of the beast do die, but their death is a passage to renewed life. The unmarked, those sealed for death, rise again and reign with Christ. The mark of the beast rescued from immediate death, but the important things don’t happen at the beginning. We only know what the marks and the seals mean when we get to the end of things.”

It’s obvious why the mark of the beast is so attractive; it offers immediate salvation. That is, it gives one the sustenance and safety needed to see another day. To be clear, the things the mark of the beast allows one to obtain aren’t bad in and of themselves. On the contrary: food, drink, life—these are good, but they are by nature gifts, and gifts aren’t gifts if ripped from the giver’s hand. They must be received, not taken. Love requires as much. In the end, there is a feast for those who refuse the mark of the beast, but only through famine. There is resurrection, but only through death. Seeking the Kingdom apart from the cross is not only counterproductive; it’s satanic (Mat 4:8). So, we seek the seal of God, not the mark of the beast, come what may.

Upon her return, Belle brings more than tears to the ransacked castle; she brings new life. From her lips comes resurrection, breaking the curse once and for all. In a grand celebratory feast, she dances with her lover who is now, at long last, transformed into who he was always supposed to be. When the Beast sent Belle away, he planted the painful seed of death. At the dance, we see the fruit: life.

Beauty and the Beast and Revelation have the same counterintuitive message: if you want to save your life, lose your life. Don’t choose a forced, immediate redemption. Instead, wait for the day the Savior will return from the Father’s house to defeat the persecutors at the door. Because on that day, we will all be raised back to ourselves again—humanity fully restored. At that grand banquette, there will be no doubt: the dark curse is broken under the foot of sacrificial love.

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By In Culture, Film

The absurdity of sin in ‘Fargo’ Season 2

The Coen brothers have a reputation for exploring biblical morality in many of their movies, Hail, Caesar!  being their most religious yet. The writers of the Fargo television series have remained faithful to the Coen tradition. Seasons 1 & 2 serve as a cautionary tale of how belief fundamentally shapes moral behavior. This review focuses on Season 2 and concludes with a summary of both seasons. The review for Season 1 can be found here.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Season 2

Season 2 is a prequel to Season 1, set in 1979. Lou Solverson is our hero, a young cop with a wife named Betsy and a daughter named Molly. Other than these characters, a connection to Season 1 isn’t immediately discerned. Many have said that the series could be watched in reverse without giving away spoilers. This much is true and will prove relevant to our conclusion.

In episode one, Waiting for Dutch, we catch a glimpse of Ed and Peggy Blumquist holding hands to pray before a meal. The Blumquists are religious to some extent, though we learn that it has no root in their lives. Ed has big dreams of owning a butcher shop and raising children, but he is oblivious to his wife’s needs and desires. Peggy is plagued with stress and anxiety. She’s a compulsive hoarder who yearns for satisfaction in what she perceives to be an unsatisfactory life. She isn’t happy at home, at work, or in Luverne, Minnesota.

fargo-prayer-1024x591 (more…)

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By In Culture, Film

The consequence of evolution in ‘Fargo’ Season 1

Religion and philosophy are common themes on FX’s Fargo series. Seasons 1 & 2 serve as a cautionary tale of how belief fundamentally shapes moral behavior. Together the seasons offer a grim analysis of our cultural landscape, but one that doesn’t leave us without hope. This review focuses on Season 1 only. Click here for Season 2 and series summary.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Season 1

The year is 2006 and Lorne Malvo is a professional killer with no conscience. He is presented as a master of manipulation and intimidation. Malvo kills who he wants, when he wants – and with great ease. When he finds himself confronted by law enforcement, Malvo always manages to get free. Magically so, seemingly able to escape enclosed basements, control minds, and create fake identities ex nihilo.

(more…)

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By In Culture, Film, Theology

Gran Torino, Unforgiven, and the Justice of God

Gran Torino

Both of these movies are rated-R and contain quite a bit of salty language. Unforgiven also has some sexual content.  I will be giving the basic plot of the each movie including the ending. So if haven’t seen them and plan to you may want to come back. 

Gran Torino  is directed by and stars Clint Eastwood. He is an old Korean War vet who lives in Detroit. The movie opens with his wife’s funeral. His neighborhood has been overrun by Asians. He is the last white man left. He spends his days keeping up his yard, drinking at the bar, mocking the local priest, and yelling racial epithets at his Asian neighbors. Through a series of events he becomes friends with the Asian family next door and begins to mentor the teenager in the family, which includes teaching him to cuss and work hard.  A local gang insists that the boy join up, but he refuses.  This gang ultimately beats up and rapes (this is not seen on screen) the boy’s sister in retaliation for his refusal to join the gang as well as his friendship with the veteran. No one will give up the men in the gang. The neighborhood is silent. Eastwood figures out that this boy will never be free of the gang. The movie ends with Eastwood going to the gang’s house unarmed. He tricks them into killing him in public so they will go to jail and the boy and his family can be free. He sacrifices his life so the young man can have a new life.

Unforgiven is another movie which Eastwood directs and stars in. He is a washed up gunfighter in his last days. His wife is dead. He is weak. The movie begins with him chasing a pig around the pen and ultimately falling in the slop.  He agrees to take on one last job with a young, hotheaded gunfighter who dreams of glory but does not understand the cost of killing men. Eastwood recruits his old partner, Morgan Freeman, to help them. They do the job, which means killing a man and his partner who cut up a prostitute’s face. In the process they come in conflict with the tyrannical, local sheriff, Gene Hackman. Hackman ultimately kills Morgan Freeman in brutal fashion. The movie ends with Eastwood coming back to town and taking vengeance by shooting Gene Hackman. Unforgiven is not your typical revenge movie. Killing in the movie takes a toll. Eastwood does not want to talk about his gun slinging days. He dreams of men he has killed covered in maggots. Killing is not glorified. Yet it still is a revenge flick. Eastwood’s wrath is on full display at the end as he points his gun at Hackman’s face.

 

As Christians we typically look at these two movies and see one that tells a Christian story of sacrifice for others and one that tells a non-Christian story of revenge. However, this is splitting apart what should not be torn asunder. Our God is a God of vengeance (Romans 12:19). Vengeance and wrath are part of the Christian story. They are part of God’s character. The story of Jehu’s purging of Ahab’s house is a great, bloody example of God’s wrath poured out on man. But wait you say, “Unforgiven is not about God’s wrath. It is about man’s wrath.” To which I say, “That is all a movie can do.” In movies men can be little Christs sacrificing for those around them or they can be little Christs executing vengeance on the wicked. Just as Gran Torino is Christ’s sacrifice put on the small screen so Unforgiven is the wrath of Christ put on the small screen as well. (I am not saying the director meant it that way or that it is a perfect representation.) We reap what we sow. Justice will be served. Wrongs will be set right. The wicked will either take the sacrifice of Christ or will pay with eternal damnation. Christ’s blazing sword is as real his bloody cross.

This is not a wholehearted defense of revenge movies. Bloodlust is a problem in our culture, especially among young men. Movies like Unforgiven can appeal to that lust for blood instead of a longing for justice. Revenge movies can exploit violence in a way that is not good. And few of them are done as well as Unforgiven. But revenge movies resonate with us for a reason: we long for justice. When Gene Hackman whips Morgan Freeman to death we know that something has gone  wrong.  Freeman was not perfect, but Hackman is a monster behind his badge and smile. So we wait for justice and vengeance. Eastwood’s shotgun is that justice. A father’s daughter is kidnapped and killed. The police never find the culprit. So we wait for justice. Nine people are killed at a Bible study. We wait for justice. Christians are beheaded, nuns are raped, children are exploited and we wait for justice. Old men are mocked, babies are chopped up, sodomy is praised, and we wait for justice. Sometimes justice comes in the form of  the magistrate’s sword. Sometimes it comes in other forms, such as rival gangs, cultural decline, or diseases brought on by wickedness. It can come at the Cross. It may come on the Last Day when all will stand before Christ.  But justice will come. Revenge movies remind us of this. They remind us that the character of God is not just seen at the Cross, but is also in the fires of Hell.

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By In Culture, Film

On Making Movies and Being Christian

Recently my son spent some time with another young man who was visiting our church with his family. Both of these boys are eleven. They talked about movies. But they did not talk watching them. They talked about making them. How many young men are out there who want to make movies or act in them? Humans love stories. We love to hear them and we love to tell them. As our children grow we should expect them to write great stories. But we should also expect them to direct great stories. Here are some thoughts on the present state and suggestions for the future growth of Christian movie makers.

First, Christian movie making is in its infancy. Hopefully, in time, the industry will gain maturity and wisdom in how movies are made. We need to give these men time to grow up. We can’t expect a six year old to act forty-five. By the way, this also means we need older Christians involved in the movie making business. Maturity often comes with age. Unfortunately, too many Christian film makers are young.

Second, I am grateful for the men who are making these movies. I do not agree with everything they do, but they are paving the way for the next generation. Critics should be more humble. It is hard to make a good movie, just take a peek at all the trash on Netflix that somehow still got made.

Third, Christian movie makers need to be open to criticism. Many Christians, especially in the arts, insulate themselves from criticism. Just because you are doing it for Jesus doesn’t mean you get a pass. And this doesn’t just mean criticism from other Christians.

Fourth, if we want the next generation of movie makers to make better movies, we need to give them better stories. Our educational system, public and Christian, has gotten rid of many great stories.  Here is where the older practice of a classical education can help us with a very modern issue; how to make good movies. Shakespeare, Dante, Beowulf, Steinbeck, Dickens, and of course, the Bible fill our minds with great stories. If we absorb these stories it will go a long way towards making better movies.

shakespeare

Fifth, a good story on paper does not magically become a good movie. We need Christians who understand what a visual medium is for. A movie is not a lecture, novel, or short story. Words on a page are not the same as dialogue plus images. Christians need to examine how this medium can be used to help people to see the world as God made it. Studying great directors can be a help here. You may not agree with Scorsese or Spielberg or Fincher, but they should be studied none the less, much as one studies Hemingway or Twain when it comes to literature.

Sixth, movies are not preaching or evangelism. A movie cannot do the work of a minister or an evangelist. This is one of the most helpful things a Christian movie maker can remember. Your movie cannot do what the preaching of God’s Word does. Don’t shove it into that hole. Let movies do what they are supposed to: tell a story using words and pictures. They can pave the way for the preaching of the good news, but they cannot be a substitute for it.

Seventh, Christians need to find ways to show sin in a way that does not cause a sailor to blush but is realistic. This is a difficult balance, but not impossible. Older horror movies can give some guidance here. What is implied, but not shown, is often most effective. We are used to seeing everything so we forget the impact of not seeing, but still knowing. One example of this is in the Coen Brothers’ film, No Country for Old Men. The villain meets the main character’s wife. We know he is going to kill her. They talk inside the house. Then we see the bad guy on the front porch wiping blood off his boot. Nothing is seen. But everything is understood. Great directors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, are masters of the unseen. Evils, such as rape, adultery, dismemberment, etc. can all be a part of a Christian movie when we understand this. These scenes should not be pornographic, exploitative, nor simplistic, but they should sufficient impact. The one dimensional nature of sin is a great deficiency in Christian movies. The Devil with horns, the wicked man who is always converted, or the happy ending for all is not true to Scripture or experience.  

Eighth, piggybacking on my last point, Christian movies do not have to end with an altar call, be explicitly about God, be sappy, void of sex, violence, and language, or end with the couple sitting contentedly watching the sun set. Saul committed suicide and his body was cut into pieces.  David’s son killed his incestuous half-brother. Jehu piled up heads. Judas hung himself and his guts spilled out. Paul was stoned and then walked back into the city. The structure and content of Christian movies should reflect God, his ways, and the fallen world we live in. But all genres, horror, action, animation, drama, science -fiction, comedy, period epics, and even romantic comedies and almost any topic can be used to do this. Too many Christians view Hallmark films as the paradigm for making their movies instead of the Scriptures.

Ninth, on the flip side, Christians should not be afraid of putting a hero on the screen. Antiheroes are all the rage these days. But, in many ways, having a true hero, who is good, but not perfect is more difficult than putting a wicked man on screen. Often the good guy in a movie comes across as one dimensional.  But we have a real hero in Jesus Christ. Somehow that idea needs to be translated to the screen without us having to make a movie about Jesus. Along with this, we should not be afraid of happy endings either. The world really does end with overwhelming joy for those in Christ. Some of our movies should as well. Just as Hallmark films should not be our paradigm, neither should the nihilistic darkness that represents so much of modern movies and TV shows.  Just as there is Saul there is also David. Just as there is Judas, there are the faithful disciples who see the risen Christ. Just as there is Jezebel there is also Ruth and Esther.

Tenth, we need rich Christians to finance the movie making endeavors of other Christians. A good product does not always require money, but it usually does. Money does matter.

Eleventh, it is okay for Christians to make movies for a narrow audience. Secular people do that all the time. Many movies that play at places like Cannes are narrow in their audience appeal. If Christians want to make movies that are primarily apologetic, just for church goers, or a documentary about the evils of public education that is fine. The problem is that we have not yet effectively branched out into “mainstream” movie making.

Twelfth, we need Christians who see movie making as a vocation, not a hipster fad.  Movie stars and directors are the gods of America. They are rich, pampered, and most of all cool. It is easy for a Christian to think he is getting into movie making for God when his ego is the real motivation. He chooses to make movies to fill a need in himself instead of as a way to serve. Movie making is like being an architect, auto mechanic, or business manager. It is a job that needs to be done well, to the glory of God, and as way to love our neighbor. We don’t need more Christians who want to be hip and reach out to the hip people of the world through movies.  We need Christians who view movie making and all its side jobs, lighting, costumes, etc as a calling that requires skill, training, and diligence. We need normal, grounded, men in the movie business who have wives, children, go to worship each Sunday, and have done something besides make short films with their phone.

Thirteenth, there is nothing wrong with Christians making movies for fun and entertainment. It is odd that many Christian movie makers and those who love the secular, small budget, indie movies both believe movies must be profound to be worth making. They disdain movies that are just for entertainment. But there is nothing wrong with Guardians of the Galaxy or Jason Bourne. They are McDonalds, instead of the local steak house. They are the Saturday morning t-shirt instead of a three piece suit. They usually won’t change your life. But they are  fun, exciting, and well-made. There is nothing wrong with Christians making these types of movies.

There is more that needs to be said, especially about how Christians interact with the Hollywood complex and all her wickedness. But in the end, God, His world, and the people who live in it are amazing. There are millions of stories out there, some true, some not so true, and some pure myth that can be told. There are tragedies, comedies, horror stories, and love stories. Christians can and should be telling all these types of stories. The glowing screen presents many dangers for God’s people, but like any tool it also presents an opportunity to tell the world Who we worship and what the world He made is like.<>odnobotсоздание и продвижение бренда

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