Category Archive: Movies

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October 21, 2004

Heaven

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Last night, Moriah and I watched Heaven and enjoyed it greatly.

The movie stars Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi and is directed by Tom Tykwer, who also directed Run Lola Run.

The screenplay was by Krzysztof Kielowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, who also wrote the screenplays for the Three Colours trilogy (which are among my favourite movies) as well as The Double Life of Veronique and The Decalogue (which I haven’t seen yet). Kieslowski died before he was able to direct Heaven and Tykwer was given the job. He handles it well. I hope sometime we’ll be able to see the rest of the trilogy, Hell and Purgatory.

I’m not going to say much about the movie because to say almost anything would ruin the story. I will say this, however: there’s a lot of Christian symbolism throughout the movie, though particularly at the end, and there’s even more if you watch the deleted scenes. The director says that he sees Heaven as a story about redemption, about a person in darkness who comes into the light and the light, of course, comes from above (I’m quoting from memory what Tykwer says in the interview on the DVD).

Highly recommended for people who like to think through movies.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:24 pm | Discuss (0)
April 29, 2004

Kieslowski

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The latest issue of Books and Culture contains an article by Roy Anker on the filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski.

I haven’t seen much of Kieslowski’s work — only the Three Colours trilogy (twice) — but what I’ve seen I’ve greatly enjoyed. In fact, if you were to ask me to name my favourite movie, I just might say Red. Someday I hope to see The Decalogue and The Double Life of Veronique.

Anker sums up Kieslowski’s filmmaking this way:

He is a lean, minimalist storyteller; the old-fashioned word “gracile” fits best. His editing pares away anything that does not deepen the story’s emotional and narrative depth. Typically his films feel much longer than they are — not because they drag, but because they immerse viewers in the dense tangle of a world fraught with death, love, tragedy, hope, choice, change, and, very possibly, the love of God. Through all of this, in a chief feature of his accomplishment, Kieslowski stays remarkably nonverbal, trusting to events and images to arrest, disclose, and move. Which is exactly what his films do, over and over again, stories so simple and spare that they seem parables. People, events, conflict, silence, color, and music all brew up together to mesmeric effect. And always there are faces, lovely and otherwise, on which Kieslowski’s camera dwells as if to exhibit the soul.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:23 pm | Discuss (0)
April 22, 2003

The Minor Themes

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Here’s a snippet from James Jordan’s “Biblical Perspectives on the Arts” (Biblical Educator 4.1). It was written in 1982 and I don’t know if Jim would put it the same way today, but I thought it was worth passing on:

Francis Schaeffer, in his fine booklet Art and the Bible (Intervarsity), mentions what he calls the major and the minor themes in Christian art. The minor themes are sin, depravity, ugliness, and the like. The major themes are salvation, righteousness, beauty, and the like. Because Christian fine arts are realistic, they deal with the minor themes, but they show the triumph of the major themes. This need not be true in each and every piece of art, but will be the message of the corpus of an artist’s work as a whole….Because fine arts often deal with the minor themes as well as the major ones, fine arts are not always “beautiful.” To bring across the horror of sin, the fine arts sometimes present what we might call “anti-beauty,” but the overall tendency is to create a fuller beauty as the ultimate goal.

Tolkein has put it very well in the opening passages of the Silmarillion. Satan abstracts one small set of notes from the great hymn of the angels, and harps only on them; but God is able to turn this dissonance into a new tragic melody, which eventually works its way back into the hymn, and the last beauty is greater than the first.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:55 pm | Discuss (0)
April 10, 2003

Three Colours

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Way back when I started blogging, three of my earliest posts talked about Krzysztof Kieslowski’s trilogy, Blue, White, and Red. Now, at long last, the movies have come out in a DVD box set: Three Colours. Tim spotted them in a store here in Grande Prairie.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:59 am | Discuss (0)
February 8, 2003

Changing Lanes

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On Friday night, my new landlords and I watched Changing Lanes. I’d seen it once before and enjoyed it, but I had thought some elements were implausible. This time, however, some of the things that had appeared to me (and, I gather, to some reviewers) to be weaknesses didn’t look as weak as I had thought.

I recall hearing that Gattaca got some bad reviews because the reviewers thought the characters (indeed, all the people) seemed a bit stiff and stand-offish. But that, of course, was the point. In the future as portrayed by Gattaca people would be that way.

So, too, with Changing Lanes: What some people saw as weaknesses were there for a reason. Here’s the first and perhaps biggest implausibility to come to mind: All the events in the movie take place on one day. The two characters meet and carry out their vendetta against each other and the whole thing is over by suppertime.

But it seems to me that the implausibility is designed to make a point and the point has to do with which day it is. We hear it fairly early in the movie: “It’s Friday. Good Friday,” we’re told (to which the Ben Affleck character responds, “What’s so good about it?”). Later, in a crucial scene in the movie, we’re shown a Good Friday celebration in a Roman Catholic church (“The wood of the cross on which was slain the Saviour of the world”). Watch for an icon hanging in a closet in one scene, not to mention other times when the camera lingers on a cross.

The movie is, quite simply, about reconciliation, the kind which comes about only when one lays down one’s rights, accepts suffering without retaliation, and repays evil with good — all of which has everything to do with Good Friday. On first viewing, I was moved by the ending and intrigued by the pervasive Christianity but also disturbed by a few elements. On this second viewing, while I still see some flaws in the ending, I understand it better and my appreciation for the whole has grown.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:55 pm | Discuss (0)
August 2, 2002

Bookshelves & Insomnia

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This morning, my bookshelves arrived — seven of them. It took the elderly gentleman who made them a couple of hours to make sure all the shelves fit, and then I spent the next couple of hours filling them with the books which, for as long as I’ve lived here, have been piled up around the walls of my bedroom. The arrival of the shelves is somewhat bittersweet, however, since I’m not sure how long I’ll be living here, and I’m reluctant to unpack all the boxes of books I have stored downstairs in case I have to pack again a few months from now.

I had supper tonight with Keith and Jenn Griffioen. After supper, we went to see Insomnia. It’s not perhaps a great movie, but I enjoyed it. It’s a murder mystery, but the mystery isn’t the main focus.

Al Pacino plays Detective Will Dormer from Los Angeles who has come to Alaska with his partner to help find the killer of a teenage girl. But things go wrong in a way that might lead people to suspect Dormer himself of a crime. Dormer covers things up. After all, if he’s under suspicion, his entire life’s work could be undone; criminals he’s arrested in the past might go free if there’s any suspicion cast on him and his methods as a detective. But Dormer can’t sleep, and the midnight sun doesn’t help. Add to the mix the fact that the suspect in the murder knows what Dormer has done.

The film presents a number of moral questions worth pondering, primary of which is whether the ends justify the means. Jeffrey Overstreet at Looking Closer writes,

This movie should be seen, discussed, and pondered more than once. Movies regularly sell us the lie that a hero is somebody willing to do anything to catch the bad guy. Most big screen heroes work in varying methods of vigilante justice. Many commit small crimes in order to stop those who commit big ones. And audiences cheer. But who’s to say that the criminals themselves weren’t trying to accomplish what they saw was good through unclean methods? Insomnia is a tragedy, but it tells the truth about the wages of sin. It’s one of the best American thrillers I’ve ever seen.

The scenery was breathtaking. Although the story is set in Alaska, the film was shot in northern British Columbia, in a town that Keith had visited a few times.

Now I’m off to have a cup of tea and read a bit more of Holifield and the last short story in Gene Wolfe’s Endangered Species.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:48 pm | Discuss (0)
May 16, 2002

In the Bedroom

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I just came home from seeing In the Bedroom — thanks in large measure to Critique. If it hadn’t been for Drew Trotter’s review in the latest issue, I probably would never have seen the film. It would have been my loss. The filming is beautiful, the acting superb, the story heartbreaking. It’s a story of grief and loss, exacerbated by miscommunication and injustice — and all without the gospel and therefore without hope. Painful to watch, but well worth seeing.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:45 am | Discuss (0)
April 28, 2002

A Beautiful Mind

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Tonight, after editing my sermons, I saw A Beautiful Mind. It was a very moving film, beautifully shot and well acted, loosely based on the life of John Nash, a schizophrenic mathematician who won the Nobel Prize. As Drew Trotter points out in his review in Critique,

A Beautiful Mind does not offer a thoroughly Christian perspective; John Nash triumphs by purely human effort. There is no mention of God, church, Scripture, clergy, sacrament or any other source of spiritual strength or healing known in Christian tradition. But what Mind does do is offer a realistic portrayal of one of the most difficult challenges facing humankind and the hope that that challenge can be faced and, if not conquered, at least neutralized. And the film does so with excellence and grace, reward enough for a viewing.

Most striking, perhaps, was the film’s emphasis on the importance of community and of love. As Nash says near the end, “The most important discovery of my life . . . is that only in the mysterious equation of love can any logic and reason be found.” After all, ultimate reality is not laws and facts and matter and chance but a God who is Triune, three persons bound together in an eternal covenant of self-giving love, who created us, not because He needed us but because He wanted us to share in His family life and experience His love forever. And we image Him best when we give ourselves to others, a lesson I’m still learning and perhaps indeed “the most important discovery of my life.”

Posted by John Barach @ 12:05 am | Discuss (0)
April 6, 2002

Wit

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Tonight, I watched Wit, starring Emma Thompson. It was deeply moving, often brutal, sometimes beautiful. It illuminates the emptiness of a life lived in the pursuit of knowledge alone, the necessity of self-giving love (expressed through touch as well as words), and the comfort of belonging to a God who is with you wherever you are. I’m grateful that in God’s grace He continues to provide nurses who humble themselves to care for others. This movie ought to be mandatory viewing for anyone thinking of entering the ministry.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:07 am | Discuss (0)
April 5, 2002

Seducing the Underworld

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The March/April issue of Books and Culture contains a review of Moulin Rouge by Douglas Jones, editor of Canon Press and Senior Fellow of Philosophy at New St. Andrews in Moscow, Idaho. Here, to whet your appetite, is the opening paragraph:

When Baz Luhrmann’s new film musical, Moulin Rouge, opened last year, Twentieth Century/Fox tried ever so hard to pitch it as a feast of skanky perversity, but the film itself is about the triumph of purity, a wild purity that seduces the stiffest of hearts. Indeed it begins by explicitly telling us that it is about love. That may sound safely generic, but in fact the entire story is engaged in distinguishing among different types and levels and transformations of love — vulgar, selfish, kind, and that love which proves so magical it extinguishes the lurid lights of the Moulin.

The review makes me want to watch the movie again!

Posted by John Barach @ 12:09 pm | Discuss (0)
December 24, 2001

Red

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Hey, look at that! For once the blurbs on the video cover aren't weird! I actually agree with them!

Well, now that I’ve mentioned Blue and White, I suppose it’s fitting for me to rave about Red (1994), the third in Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, which I saw tonight. In Red, a young model named Valentine (Irene Jacob) accidentally hits a dog which belongs to a retired and rather unpleasant judge. Their growing friendship intersects at a couple of points with the failing romance between Auguste, a young law student who lives across the street from Valentine, and a woman who lives somewhere near the judge. But Valentine and Auguste themselves consistently fail to meet. One might call the movie an “almost romance.” And the ending is satisfying and full of possibility.

Interestingly enough, the main characters from Blue and White also show up at one point in the movie. As well, all three movies show an old woman, bent nearly double, trying to deposit a bottle in a large garbage bin (or maybe it’s a recycling bin?) but being barely able to get it in the hole, which is a little too high for her to reach.

I quoted part of what Denis Haack said earlier, but I’ll give the whole quotation now: “Like the image of the tangle of electric wires stretched between houses and tenement buildings which appears on the screen, Kieslowski is reminding an individualistic world that relationship and community are not only essential, but inescapable.” Red is supposed to be the film about fraternity, but one could easily say that the whole trilogy is about love. We live in community, and, like the recurring old woman, we need to help and to be helped.

One catch with this “almost romance”? It reminds me that I’m single¬†—¬†on Christmas Eve, no less! Ah, well. I’m off to finish up The Devil in a Forest, drink some tea, unwrap a present or two, and head to bed. Gotta preach in the morning! Merry Christmas, everybody!

Posted by John Barach @ 11:26 pm | Discuss (0)

White

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While I wait for Bill to work on a Christmas sermon with me, here’s another post.

Here's the cover of the video, aiming to sell a thoughtful movie to thoughtless louts, attracted to Julie DelpyIn a previous post, I mentioned that I had seen Blue, the first in Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy. I’ve now seen the second in the trilogy, White (1994), starring Zbigniew Zanachowski and Julie Delpy. White wasn’t as enigmatic as Blue and moved a little more quickly.

There were some very nice touches. For instance, in Blue, Julie is looking for a particular lawyer and steps into a courtroom for a moment. We hear just a snippet of the proceedings, a man protesting against the lack of equality. Will the court refuse to hear his case because he doesn’t speak French? White is the film about equality, and it begins in that courtroom with Karol protesting his wife’s desire to divorce him. He says those lines from Blue, and in the background, we see Julie step into the courtroom and then leave.

I enjoyed White and the plot was perhaps more intriguing than that of Blue, but the movie as a whole disappointed me. Maybe it was because I was expecting something as profound as the ending of Blue and didn’t see it. I’m also not completely satisfied with my ideas about how this movie spoke about equality. Still, I’ll have to go on to watch Red next.

Oh, by the way, disregard that blurb from Cosmopolitan on the cover of the video: “Intoxicating, Erotic Treat!” That’s probably what they’d say about ice cream, too. It hardly sums up the movie! (Nor, for that matter, does The New Yorker‘s comment, “Mysterious … Sexy!,” come close to capturing Blue.)

Posted by John Barach @ 4:26 pm | Discuss (0)

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