Engaging with culture :: Film – Part II

Making Connections – The Film’s Story and God’s Story

The Bible’s story could be summarised under the following headings:

Creation/Fall/Redemption/Consummation (or Fulfillment)

In fact everyone understands their story in this way, whether they relate it to the Bible or not. Everyone sees somewhere they have come from (creation), recognise that there is something that needs dealing with (fall), they see something or someone as the one who is going to deal with that problem (redemption) and have hope that this will finally deal with the issue (consummation).

For instance, take your average business man in the west. The ‘problem’ many people want solving is that of identity. They want to know who they are and their place in the world. They want to be recognised for who they are an affirmed. The way they think they will get this is through working hard. This will gain them the desired recognition and approval. This, they hope will give them worth and standing. Work is their functional saviour. Perhaps the ‘consummation’ will come when they reach the top of their profession.

This is no less reflected in film. We see this story played out again, and again. We have ‘creation’ as the story is set out, the characters and their relationships are presented to us. Then we encounter ‘the fall’ – there is some issue, some dilemma or conflict that is causing problems for the heroes. Someone or something is then presented as the one who is going to deal with this problem and finally we get resolution (consummation) when the characters live happily ever after. (There is of course a more ‘hopeless’ version of this where the characters don’t live happily ever after. However this only works precisely because of this framework. We expect resolution; when there is none it grates and we feel the tension).

If you want to see this in action just watch films like Star Wars (Creation – the virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker; Fall – Anakin turns to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader; Redemption – Anakin is the one who will ‘bring balance back to the force’ and does this by destroying the Emporer; Consummation – a big knees up with the Ewokes!), or Blade Runner, The Shawshank Redemption.

The problem with all these other stories, is that the problem is often, though not always misunderstood, and the ‘saviour’ is always going to ultimately let us down. The Bible shows us very clearly that all human attempts to deal with the problems we face in life will end in failure and are in fact idolatrous attempts as we direct our hope towards someone or something other than God.

This is where we are really going to be able to engage with films, and also where films intersect and give voice to people’s stories. It was what the prophets were doing when they were challenging false God’s, and it was what Jesus and the Apostles did throughout their ministries. When we call people to repent we are calling them to leave behind their false saviours to through themselves on the grace that is available through Jesus.

To do this we need to be able to see what the functional saviours are of the story we are watching. We need to be able to describe what they are saving people from. Conversations with our friends can then be in terms of whether we find identity with the ‘problem’ and then the proposed ‘saviour’. Is our greatest need for a romantic relationship (as in the romcoms) and it is only the dashing man/stunning woman who will bring us that ‘salvation’?

We can then ask ‘how is that solution going’? It won’t take long to see it probably isn’t going very well! We humans do have an incredible capacity for hope in spite of the evidence, but we need to push people on that.

Having done this we can present God’s story, showing how there is a problem, as will probably resonate with the people we are talking with, but the solution comes in realising our involvement in that problem, our utter helplessness in dealing with it, and God’s intervention in Christ resulting in forgiveness, hope, relationship, citizenship and the defeat of evil.