This week's post is going to be a movie review.
Qualification 1: don't worry, I've not run out of things to write about.
Simply because this movie made a big impact on me. I'm still thinking and feeling about it, days after watching it, trying to distill the thoughts and ideas, as well as feelings, that it aroused.
Though it may verge on a more personal side, and maybe even end up (horrors) rambling, I think it's worth trying to express these thoughts and ideas, which I hope will be helpful to you--or at least food for thought--regardless of whether you watch Bella or not.
And don't worry, it won't end up as a gushy puddle of disconnected I-can't-even adjectives.
Having heard about this 'award-winning pro-life movie' I can't even remember how, my mom and sis and I took time off to have a movie night together.
I wasn't exactly expecting traumatic emotional catharsis, because I've never been a good crier...much to the annoyance of some friends (you know, the kind who delight in making everyone watch 'guaranteed tear jerker' movies for the satisfaction of seeing other people as emotionally traumatised as they were...ah, I think you're smiling there. We all know one.)
Not many 'sad' movies actually move me beyond a breathless, heavy dull heartache to tears (correction: tear, singular.) Even if I actually teared up, the fact often briefly detached me from the experience of the movie ('oh, look, I've got tears in my eyes. That's something...this movie is affecting...') rather than plunging me further into its emotional pull.
So it was odd when I vaguely realised I was streaming tears like a choky tap. And not caring, hardly even noticing I was. It was odd, that this fictional situation was somehow so intensely relatable. It was like watching myself experiencing those emotions on screen, even while feeling them myself as a viewer.
What was more, the movie wasn't even an overtly tragic movie--it ended happily.
I struggled to express what exactly about the movie had made such an impact on me.
(I suppose you could say I'm still experiencing its after-effects, judging from the number of paragraphs describing my response and the number of adjectives.)
The best I finally came up with was two main things:
The 'tragedy'. To begin with, it was so tastefully done that it was emotionally graphic without being (explicitly) visually graphic. Like the classic Greek tragedies, it was not the process of the deed itself--the blood, the violence, which so many movies, 'sad' or otherwise, like to obsess over--but the consequences of it, that struck you. What I remember most is not the sight of the incident happening but the deep, gripping sense of horror the scene conveyed.
Then the nature of the tragedy itself. Most tragedies tend to be on a greater scale than the sort of tragedies we might experience--more dramatic, more extreme, so that our emotional response is also more dramatic, more extreme.
I've felt compassion for tragic characters by imagining their feelings, but couldn't actually relate to what they felt. After all I'd never had my entire family killed or been betrayed by my lover etc, though I definitely could imagine how terrible that would be.
Neither had I ever, as in Jose's case--
*SPOILER ALERT* skip the next paragraph if you plan to watch Bella!
(there, let it never be said I ruined your movie experience...)
--run a child over. Yet somehow I found echoes of my own experience in his helpless horror mixed with the terrible responsibility of guilt. The shame, the guilt, regret, remorse, hopelessness, helplessness, the desperate desire to undo. Somehow my soul recognised the agony of its gory struggles and was wrung like a dirty dishcloth. (this analogy, if you stop to think about it, is more accurate than romantic..)
I happen to be reading Gene Edward Veith's excellent book Reading Between the Lines now (a great book for Christians who love/study lit.) Clearly by providence, I had just reached the section on tragedy. As I read his description of the response good tragedy produces, I realised it exactly summarised my feelings after Bella.
'...We witness truths about our own fallibility and limits, and awakens both compassion for others and humility for ourselves...come away feeling chastened, emotionally drained, yet not depressed (as with melodrama).'
Secondly, it was not distanced from reality. Not idealised and sentimentalised the way most melodramatic 'sad' movies are (or at least, not obviously so.) Yet at the same time, a deep, uplifting sense of hope and redemption pervaded it even through the darkest parts.
It upset my vague ideas and definitions of tragedy completely. I'd never thought of tragedy as uplifting (in fact when I was little I absolutely hated sad endings, thought they were just horribly depressing stories that shouldn't be written if they made people feel so awful. That, of course, was before I started studying literature;P)
Perhaps by how it portrayed life. Tenderly, exposing its subtle wordless beauties and joys even as it confronted the terrible pain and horror it was equally capable of. The 'pro-life message' I was expecting in a moving speech by one of the characters never even appeared once. Jose, the main character, tries to dissuade his friend Nina from an abortion, yet he never actually tells her not to. In the same wordless way, the whole movie drew me into an poignant awareness of the preciousness of life, as simply and gradually as falling asleep.
After thinking all this through, I realised, I want to write like that.
I want my writing to reflect life. Deeply anchored in reality, yet transcendent: uplifting, redemptive, vibrant with hope and vibrant with fervent appreciation and gratefulness for life-precious, rich wonderful life--even while confronting its pain and suffering.
I want the readers of my stories to feel the way I did after watching Bella. To recognise an accurate portrayal of life which they can relate to, which at the same time is greater and better because of the hope it offers. To appreciate life better, and be moved to form aspirations based on that understanding.
God gave us a wonderful world which, even though we've tainted it with sin, can still be beautiful and precious.
And not only that, He gave us a means of deliverance; the hope of an ultimate happy ending despite the horror and pain we've thrown ourselves into now.
(I'm afraid this has turned out to be long, maybe rambly and --worse--aimless. But perhaps, as these thoughts sit in my mind longer, I'll eventually be able to synthesise them more effectively. Who knows? )
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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