Posts Tagged ‘Community’

passengersPassengers accomplishes something reminiscent of Cast Away and I Am Legend – the need for fellowship.  While audiences felt sympathy for Tom Hanks and Will Smith being secluded on islands – one a tropical island, the other Manhattan island – Passengers increases this feeling on the final frontier.

When we first meet Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) he’s just waking up from hyper-sleep…90 years too soon.  Not only is that just a tad too early, but he’s the only passenger, out of five thousand, who woke up too soon.

As he slowly gets acclimated to life on the spacecraft, Avalon, he quickly realizes he’s all alone.  His terrified reaction to this realization reminds us of the importance for community and fellowship.  Not only is this feeling enhanced when it’s set against the backdrop of the vastness of space, but it’s increased by the understanding that other humans are aboard the Avalon.  This presence of humanity only seems to taunt Jim’s solitude.

Jim gets a glimpse of humanity as he encounters a bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen), only to discover he’s a robot.  To Arthur’s credit, he does a superb job of acting human.  Just one example, Arthur constantly polishes glasses at the bar, even though Jim is the only customer aboard the ship.  When confronted with this truth, Arthur explains that it’s designed to comfort those he’s talking to.  Instead of staring into the eyes of Jim as he shares deep struggles, the distraction offered by polishing the glass comforts the patron.

Arthur even offers some advice to momentarily alleviate Jim’s predicament, “Quit trying to control everything.”  While this could be interpreted as a biblical truth – pointing to rest in God’s sovereignty – it becomes license to indulge.  Jim is all alone, but he has carte blanche access to every restaurant and drink available to Avalon guests.  Arthur’s advice grants reprieve to Jim’s loneliness, but it is short lived.  The emptiness of self-indulgence is on full display as Jim’s party comes crashing down.

The Moral Dilemma

As Jim reaches the end of himself – and the partying he enjoyed – he discovers a passenger that catches his eye.  He learns her name and tracks her down through the ship’s video log.  What begins as curiosity, becomes infatuation.  Jim watches the videos Aurora has left and begins to fall in love with her.  Sitting beside her sleep chamber, watching videos of her – simulating something of a date – Jim realizes his curiosity has only left him in greater misery.  He’s so close to human contact, and yet, so far away.

As he seeks advice from Arthur, he realizes the dilemma he’s created for himself: Wake a woman up too early and ruin the life she desired on another planet or continue to live and eventually die in isolation. One thing is for certain, neither is an appealing conclusion.

Movie-goers with a heartbeat understand this to be a true challenge for Jim.  Perhaps there are many who would claim, I’d never be that selfish.  The filmmakers, however, present such a clear picture of isolation and loneliness, one can’t help but feel Jim’s dilemma. 

One of the most poignant scenes in the film occurs from Jim’s discovery of a spacesuit.  As he sees the headless suit, he beings to embrace it and try to hold the hands of the suit.  For a fleeting second, he’s reminded of what it’s like to embrace another.  It is a powerful illustration of our need for community and displays the inner-wrestlings of Jim’s heart.

The Unintended Truth

This film does such a good job of communicating mankind’s innate desire for community.  Being created in God’s image necessitates community.  As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in perfect community with themselves, humanity is created with this desire for community – it’s hard-wired into us (Gen. 1:26-27).

An equally deep truth, and stronger theme in the film, was seen in Jim’s choosing of Aurora.  On the one hand, we understand that perhaps he was drawn to her beauty and then her personality through the video log, therefore, his choice of passenger is easy to grasp.  On the other hand, why didn’t he choose another man?  A buddy to hang out with?  A guy he could have played basketball or lifted weights with (he does both of those things on the Avalon)?

I was fascinated by the fact that Passengers unintentionally, most likely, illustrated one of the earliest truths of Scripture – It is not good that man should be alone (Gen. 2:18).  Just as Adam spent some time in the Garden of Eden and discovered he did not have a helper fit for him, Jim discovered that he needed – not just another image bearer – but a female.

Jim’s portrayed as a capable man in the film.  He’s a mechanic so he can fix things, he seems to be in good physical shape, he’s athletic, but he’s still incomplete.  He needs a woman.  Yes, another man would offer him community and fellowship he longs for, but there’s something about a female that’s unique.  There’s something she offers that man doesn’t.  The female is an image-bearer that bears the image of God in a manner man doesn’t.

In light of the differences between genders, I must tell viewers that there is some sexual content in the film.  While nothing is explicit, the film illustrates the sexual desires males and females have ingrained into their being.  I want to be sensitive and warn others of this content, and, while nothing is too explicit in this film, I wish they would have toned it down a bit.  At the same time, we are talking about one man and one woman secluded in space for a long time.  While Christian viewers may quickly look upon those scenes with understandable disdain, we also – I would suggest – should recognize the biblical truth of sexuality that’s being communicated onscreen.  I’m not condoning the content, but the truth.

As the film approaches its ultimate climax, Jim looks at Aurora and says, “I need your help.”  Jim, a very capable man, needs the woman and, as the film illustrates, Aurora needs Jim.  The man and the woman need one another to accomplish the task before them.  Ultimately, it is one man and one woman that keep civilization aboard the Aurora continuing.  Without the two of them coming together, the entire crew would not survive.

God’s Passengers

While so much of our culture wants to distort Scripture’s view of biblical manhood and womanhood, I feel that Passengers gives viewers a pretty accurate portrayal of what we find in God’s Word.  God created humans to be in fellowship.  God created male and female after his image.  God taught Adam he needed Eve.  Adam recited poetry as he first lays eyes on the beautiful creature he calls ‘woman’.

This side of heaven, our community and fellowship is imperfect.  Sin brings division among males and females, it brings division among races, and sin brings death which ushers in the most painful form of isolation to those left in its wake.

Truth be told, we are all passengers.  In this grand narrative called life, we are reminded that we aren’t the main characters.  The life we’re now living is not ours, but Gods.  He owns all things, even our stories.  While we are significance because we bear his image, we are merely passengers along for the ride.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a special event at a local movie theater—a Back to the Future Quote-Along. Since I wrote on Back to the Future not too long ago here at Reel Thinking, that’s not what I want to do with this post.[1] Instead, I want to focus on the event itself (the quote-along), drawing out some observations about cinema’s ability to create a sort of community and, thus, a communal viewing experience.

My wife and I, along with a couple of friends, packed into a crowded theater on a Saturday night, eager to watch—for the umpteenth time—Robert Zemeckis’ time-travel classic. On our way in, we were instructed to stop by a booth and get props for the screening (see picture). We each grabbed a glow stick, a scratch-and-sniff card, a “save the clock tower” flyer, and a miniature skateboard. Before the movie started, an emcee made his way to the front of the theater to explain the rules of the game. “This is an interactive experience,” he told us; “wave your glow sticks when the DeLorean hits 88 miles per hour.” Holding up the clock tower flyer as an example, he instructed us to do likewise every time Marty was asked to give money to save the clock tower. The scratch-and-sniff cards should be ceremonially scratched and sniffed at appropriate times throughout the films; smells will correspond to what is shown on screen. When Marty rides around town on his skateboard, we could perform tricks with our miniaturized versions. Then, having explained the proper use of the props, our host told us how the quoting would work. At various times, words would appear on the screen, karaoke style, telling us when to quote and what to say. “Don’t you dare say the lines early and ruin the experience for every one else,” he warned, “and enjoy the Back to the Future!” The show began, amid scattered cheers throughout the crowd.

It was one of the most lively times of movie-watching I’ve ever experienced. Laughter was abundant. We waived our glow sticks with fervor, and jovially exclaimed, “Great Scott!” along with Dr. Emmet Brown; clock tower flyers were hoisted in the air. The scratch-and-sniff cards provided us with some pleasant (and some unpleasant) smells to enhance our viewing experience. We cheered when George McFly finally stands up to Biff, delivering the knockout blow. We quoted, and quoted, and quoted. Sometimes we even quoted things that didn’t appear on the screen in karaoke text. It was undeniably geeky … and a lot of fun.

A few days after the fact, I thought about the event and was struck by a lingering, persistent question: Why? Why did a room full of people pay to go see a movie they can buy—or rent for even less money? I own the entire trilogy on Blu-ray and can quote the entire first movie in the comfort of my living room; so why was I excited to go see it in theaters? Why did a bunch of allegedly sane adults wave glowing sticks in the air to cheer on a car in a Hollywood movie? Well, I think the answer can be encapsulated in a single word: community. [2]

In short, we all packed into that crowded theater that night because we really, really like Back to the Future, and we wanted to see it with others who feel the same way. We wanted the community experience that the quote-along promised to provide. We were—if only for two short hours—a part of a vibrant and enthusiastic community. Every quote spoken, every glow stick raised served as a reminder that we were part of something bigger than ourselves, while simultaneously uniting us around a shared goal—the desire to (dare I say) fellowship with others in watching, a testimony to our common humanity. This language is hopefully familiar to Christian readers, for we are united in the crucified and resurrected God-man. United as a church, we proclaim our Lord’s death in the taking of the sacraments. And in His amazing and mysterious world, something as simple as a night at the movies can remind us that we were created for relationship.

  1. I will, however, talk about the movie as if you have seen it. If you haven’t, you truly must see it soon.  ↩
  2. In truth, there is a multiplicity of ways in which we can approach this question. I am not saying that the need for community is the only reason that people go to special events like quote-alongs. I maintain, however, that the claims presented herein are applicable—on some level—to the majority of spectators.  ↩

Warm Bodies Connecting

Posted: January 31, 2013 by jperritt in Comedy, Horror
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

warm_bodiesWarm Bodies is your classic love story of a young girl falling in love with a young zombie boy during a zombie epidemic. Okay, so there are some slight modifications to your classic love story; however, the basic premise is the same.

During a zombie attack, a zombie named R (he can’t remember his name but believes that it started with the letter ‘R’) rescues Julie from becoming someone’s dinner. R is a bit of a special zombie and begins to fall in love with Julie. This love begins to turn his lifeless, cold body into a warm body (now you get it).

Although I have not seen the film, it seems to explore themes of connectedness and love. Today I’ll raise a few thoughts about human connection and tomorrow we will take a closer look at love.

Not too long ago the first 4 minutes of this film was posted on Apple trailers, so I decided to take a look. I knew I was going to be blogging on this film and I also knew I needed all the help I could get in order to accurately discuss a film falling in the “zombie love story” genre. I was very surprised by what I saw. I had a hunch that the filmmakers were going for a dark comedy of sorts, but there was a scene that really struck a chord.

R is walking through an airport terminal and providing narration for his day-to-day life. He isn’t happy with the zombie apocalypse and wishes things were different. This leads him to imagine life prior to the epidemic and he imagines humans being more connected. He assumes we were so much better at expressing ourselves. However, the scene illustrates the exact opposite. The scene shows every human walking through the airport terminal on some sort of cellular device. Not connecting. Not communicating. Not expressing themselves at all.

According to this film, you, in all likelihood, are a zombie. You are a nothing more than a warm body.

Adults can often complain about the amount of time teenagers spend on their cell phone or MP3 players. But, in my experience, adults are just as bad, and in some cases, worse than teenagers. In a very real sense we have a zombie epidemic taking place in our culture.

Just today I saw a mother and daughter having breakfast together at a restaurant before school. During the entire meal the daughter was texting on her phone and her mother was staring at the wall. Two warm bodies sharing space but not connecting. We could each share many more stories like this.

Warm Bodies seems to address a very important aspect of the Christian life, community. Human beings long to be connected to one another. In a sense, waking up in the morning and checking twitter, instagram, facebook, etc. is communicating a longing to be connected to others. While it is a form of connection and community, we are increasingly becoming a culture who is feeding on a steady diet of lesser community.
In Genesis 1:26-27 God says, “Let us make man in our image” [emphasis mine]. God is telling us he is a ‘we’. He is one God who exists in a plural form. This is the trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. And the trinity is in perfect community with one another. Although distinct, they are intimately connected to each other. Therefore, humans being created in God’s image long for this connection. When we are deprived of that, or settle for lesser connection, we become nothing more than warm bodies.

Is this true of you? Parents, has your household become filled with nothing more than warm bodies? Husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, are you talking with each other or just texting? How much time are you getting away from screens and looking in the eyes of another (not on skype)?

If we aren’t careful, this zombie epidemic may be a little close than we think.

larsThis post might bother some people.

Trust me, I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers. I’m not trying to stir the pot. People might misunderstand what I’m trying to communicate because of some questionable content from Lars and the Real Girl. But, let’s rewind things a bit.

Several months ago my wife and I got on a Ryan Gosling kick. We watched The Ides of March, Drive, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. prior to Lars. Gosling has come a long way since the Young Hercules television series, as well as, his almost silent character from Remember the Titans. I had almost written him off completely for the terrible film, The Notebook. I understand that there are some touching moments in The Notebook, but glorifying fornication doesn’t really do much for me. Maybe its just me.

All of that to say, I really like Ryan Gosling. Although I cannot recommend that you watch all of his films, he is a talented actor and Lars and the Real Girl truly displayed the range he possesses.

In the film, Gosling portrays the character of Lars, a delusional hermit who lives in the garage of his brothers house. Lars is more than odd as he interacts with his family and is even more so when he’s out in public, however, there is something endearing about this character. Even though he may posses qualities associated with people who have extreme social anxiety disorder or OCD, he possesses a kindness that’s truly likable.

Lars lives in a small town where most people are aware of his condition. Although they struggle to interact, even understand Lars, they attempt to show him love. Even though kindness is not in short supply from the townspeople, Lars still cannot break these introverted tendencies until he meets a special friend named Bianca.

This is where some people might get bothered, but please bear with me, just as the townspeople bear with Lars. The special friend Lars meets is actually a doll he buys off the Internet (I don’t have to go into detail to explain what that doll is). The unique aspect to Lars’ purchasing of this doll is that he just wants companionship. (I must say that I saw this movie several months ago, so I might be off on some details.) Lars doesn’t sleep with the doll – she actually stays at his brother’s house. As far as I can remember, he doesn’t even do anything remotely sexual with Bianca.

The aspect I want to focus on from this film, and the major theme that stuck with me, was the sense of community expressed in the film. Even though Lars and his special friend got many a raised eyebrow when he took her on the town, they embraced her. Women take her for a night on the town, the beauty shop women fix Bianca’s hair, and people even converse with her on occasion. [SPOILER] As Bianca gets sick, the people from the church come and cook meals for Lars, and show true love and concern for him.

There’s a point in the film when Lars is speaking with his sister-in-law, Karin, and he exclaims that she doesn’t even care about Bianca. Karin, fed up with bathing and caring for Bianca for quite some time exclaims, “Every person in this town bends over backward to make Bianca feel at home. Why do you think she has so many places to go and so much to do? Huh? Huh? Because of you! Because – all these people – love you! We push her wheelchair. We drive her to work. We drive her home. We wash her. We dress her. We get her up, and put her to bed. We carry her. And she is not petite, Lars. Bianca is a big, big girl! None of this is easy – for any of us – but we do it…Oh! We do it for you! So don’t you dare tell me how we don’t care.”

Karin’s patience towards Lars finally comes to an end in that scene, but she communicates some profound words of love and community. The entire people share the burden of Bianca, because they love Lars.

I couldn’t help but think of the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, a letter that stresses unity in Christ. I therefore, a prisoner for The Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Would you be so bold to show the love of Christ to an awkward individual such as Lars? Who are the Lars’ of your life? Who are the awkward people who do the unthinkable that God has placed in your path? Whether it’s the purchasing of an Internet doll or something less extreme, we are called to bear with one another and strive after unity, because we were the awkward recluse whose door Christ came knocking on.

Into the Wild

Posted: November 22, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Action, Drama, True Story
Tags: , ,

EDIT: It should have been made clearer in the review that this movie is not for everyone. As mentioned below, there is some brief nudity that may cause some to stumble; although it is not presented in a sexually explicit situation, but rather it is shown on passing a nudist colony in the desert (depicted as a bunch of loonies). Exercise caution; we are not suggesting you should bring the kids to watch, and not only for this, but also for strong themes of death (starvation!) and more. While we do not follow the MPAA, I agree that I should have given a little more warning.

There is a rather awesome movie that not many have seen. It is Into the Wild. The screenplay is based on the book by Jon Krakauer, that seeks to account for the final months of a man’s life. Directed by Sean Penn and with a fine, fine cast, it tells the story of a recent college graduate, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), who decides to quit normal life and go live somewhat recklessly around the US while chasing a dream of a great Alaskan adventure. Yes, he did what thousands of teens dream of doing.

I recognize that many saw the trailer and thought it was simply about a whiny dude who claimed everyone was a hypocrite and wanted out. There is some of that, but the movie is much richer than that. Please, please watch the movie. Then come back here for us to talk at length (There are some crazy nudists at some point, so you must take caution and address your heart if that’s an area of weakness – close your eyes or something).

He desired to leave civilization, with its lies, its goals, its hypocrisy. He wanted nothing of the life his parents had, the set future of security and stability. He destroyed his documents, gave away his money and went on to see the country and enjoy nature; without telling his family of his whereabouts.

In his extreme attitude one sees an over-reaction to a true problem: that of people making their lives equal with their possessions. Paul warned Timothy that those who seek stability in the riches are wrong (1 Tim 6:17-19). The Bible is serious about making the riches of the world to be our source of joy and security.

There are many themes worthy of discussing in the movie, today we will deal with one. We can look at the splendorous creation and how it serves as the theater where the human drama unfolds. Stunning views from all sorts of landscapes dominate the screen and it really takes a rebel heart not to worship God.

Before I proceed, treat yourself to Eddie Vedder’s song Rise with scenes from the movie. Expect spoilers after the video.

One of the themes is the search for happiness. And therein lies the tragedy of the movie. In a series of true and delightful encounters, he bonds with very good friends. A couple living in Slab City, a man in South Dakota, a girl with a puppy who is into him (Kristen Stewart, before you know what), an elderly man who becomes almost a new father and who actually wishes to adopt him (the astonishing Hal Holbrook). Throughout the movie Chris looks for joy and meaning, while it is standing right in front of him and waving goodbye. At a certain point, Chris, sounding rather like Yoda, says, “You don’t need human relationships to be happy, God has placed it all around us. ” Well, there is a little bit of truth in it, but the saying is rather wrong. It is not an either/or situation; God made us in his image to relate to other people and to creation in fellowship under his guidance and law; no man is an island, as another poet said.

Chris eventually makes it to Alaska and begins to really live in the wild. There he has to gather food and to seek shelter in an old bus. He goes through great, and heart-breaking experiences (the hunting one is sad to no end). He loses a lot of weight and things begin to go seriously wrong. Nobody is totally sure of what happened, but at some point it seems that Chris ingested a kind of berry that slowed his digestive system to a crawl. He tried to head back to civilization but was too weak to do it. His diary annotations became more frantic and delirious. Eventually Chris dies, and it is heartbreaking to review flashes of all the good friends he left behind. Before dying he trembling wrote in his diary: “Happiness is only real when shared.” Near the end he may have realized that all the time he had what he wanted. He met happiness in many places and in many forms, yet he seemed to think it was always in the next corner and away from people. But happiness is one of the things that is better shared than when we try to keep it to ourselves. That way it rots. The Bible teaches us that God in his common grace gives joy even to unbelievers (Acts 14:17). It is to their condemnation that they fail to see it.

Like the Gospel, the joy comes in knowing that it connects, reconciles and frees us to love God, neighbor and nature. That it is better when shared, talked about, lived out, sung and enjoyed. It is not something we can hold on to and expect to go unspoiled.  Like life, like creation, like joy, like time, like yourself. Love is giving and sharing, love is imitating God’s gracious movement towards the others, even when they are undeserving hypocrites; there is joy in it. It is a gift to be given away.

Yesterday we determined that every human being is designed for community, but every human being has been infected by a ‘virus’ called sin.  Let us get back to the garden to look at this a bit more closely.

Adam was created by God and God educated us that the first thing in creation which was not good was for man to be alone [Gen. 2:18].  He created Eve to be with Adam and the three of them dwelt together in perfect communion. However, Adam and Eve gave into the temptation of the serpent and lost perfect communion with God.  Instead of having perfect, immediate communion with God, it now must be mediated communion with God (Note: Tim Challies’ book The Next Story has a great chapter on this).  Our contagion put us into a quarantined (if you will) relationship from God.  But God, in his grace and faithfulness, did not leave us without a Cure.

In the movie, Dr. Leonora Orantes’ (Marion Cotillard) character is the one who attempts to find the source or origin of the virus.  The obvious hope of finding a source of the virus is also finding the cure.  Throughout the movie, paranoia begins to spread, because there are rumors about this cure.  It is said that the French and Americans have a cure, but they are keeping it to themselves.

This points us to our sin all the more.  Sin causes paranoia, fear, and hatred.  It causes all these things, because sin is smart.  It possesses a power over us. When speaking of the virus in the film, someone remarks, “It’s figuring us out faster than we’re figuring it out.”  Is this not true of our sin?  Our sin has got us pegged and owns us, in a sense.

It possesses such a power that the apostle Paul said, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:15, 19)

Just like the infected subjects in the film, Paul found that he too was infected with a virus that had infected his entire being.

There is no doubt that Contagion is a frightening thriller that resonates with most audiences.  However, the reality of our sin is something more alarming than anything a Hollywood screenwriter could conjure up.  Our sin infects mankind to the core and renders them capable of horrors that are only limited to the fallen human mind.

Unlike the phrase uttered in the film, “The truth is being kept from the world”, we cannot say that.  We know both the origin and the Cure of our contagion. The origin is us, we rebelled against God and ushered in sin, but he did not leave us to ourselves.  Rather, he provided a cure through his one and only Son.

The truth is not being kept from the world, rather the world has rejected the Truth.  But in the Truth of Jesus Christ, we move from a broken fellowship of fear into a communion of peace and harmony that will never be broken.