The Kindlings Blog. Dick Staub. Celebrating Film: Amazing Grace & Pan's Labyrinth
The thoughtful creative celebrates when well-made films convey universal truths. Few experiences are more gratifying than true filmcraft intersecting with grand human themes and hitting the big screen. Two current film releases are worth celebrating and for very different reasons. "Amazing Grace" tells the true story of William Wilberforce who was urged to take up the fight to outlaw slavery by William Pitt The Younger, England's youngest ever Prime Minister at the age of 24. Wilberforce was elected to the House of Commons at the age of 21 and was on his way to a successful political career, when he took on the English establishment, urging them to end the inhumane trade of slavery. The NYT asks whether Americans are ready for such a serious film–The real question is whether America is ready for a film whose central character was so driven by Christian conviction. In his own day, Wilberforce attracted the support of religious and irreligious alike because of his appeal to basic human rights, but he did not shy away from his belief that those human rights are bestowed by God. Though it took him two decades, and he risked his political career in the process, Wilberforce is a shining example of how Christian conviction can lead to true cultural transformation. In addition to the movie, Eric Metaxas has written a stunning biography of Wilberforce that is a must read for anyone interested in how Christians can be a positive force for good in culture. Don't miss the chance to see this beautiful film on the big-screen.
The second movie worth celebrating is Guillermo del Toro's "'Pan's Labyrinth." This film is not for kids, nor is it for the squeamish—It is not family-friendly, it is rated R for graphic violence and occasional obscene language, entirely appropriate given its setting in the repressive days of Franco's fascist Spain. The makers of Pan's Labyrinth describe it as "Alice in Wonderland" for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable. Told through the eyes of a little girl whose imaginary world is inhabited by nightmarish creatures, Pan's Labyrinth is a visually imaginative and allegorical take on the fears she faced in Spain during WWII. Roger Ebert says Pan's Labyrinth" "is one of the cinema's great fantasies, rich with darkness and wonder. It's a fairy tale of such potency and awesome beauty that it reconnects the adult imagination to the primal thrill and horror of the stories that held us spellbound as children." More importantly, "Pan's Labyrinth" taps into what CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien described as "the one true myth. As a young buy Del Toro dreamed of monsters and drew them. His devoutly Catholic family attempted two exorcisms on him and Del Toro decided he could not reconcile Jesus and these monsters. He chose the monsters. Like so many of us, leaving the conservatism of our religious roots does not erase the elements of truth planted in our memory. In Pan's Labyrinth, Del Toro, consciously or not, finds the resolution of his "monster stories" through the redemptive stories imbedded in the religion of his youth. Anyone familiar with the basic outline of Jesus story will recognize in "Pan's Labyrinth" the themes of sacrifice and the spilling of blood as requirements for opening the portal to restored relationship with God. Sub-titled, dark and brooding this film is for adults, and the serious minded will find Del Toro, working like Tolkien, influenced by Christian symbols and imagery, skilled in the genre of ancient myth and relating the two artistically. Whether in a biography like Amazing Grace Or a rich brooding fantasy like Pan's Labyrinth I celebrate when well-made films explore truth. "Amazing Grace" and "Pan's Labyrinth" are cause for celebration for thoughtful creatives for whom God is of central importance.
Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.