Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Movies as Food for My Soul

Meghan and I don't often go to the theater to see a movie when it first comes out. Usually we wait to see if the film is any good before risking the 'buyers' remorse' on those high priced tickets. But, this year, we have been looking forward to three films that come out in 2012.

#1 Brave

...because it's Pixar, and we are big fans of Pixar. Almost everything they do is high quality, even the short films. If you've never seen a Pixar movie because you think they are 'for kids'...go see one. The plots are written for all ages.

#2 The Hobbit

...because I have a weakness for Tolkien, and grand travel adventure stories. Of course, I freely admit that I am mostly looking forward to the final battle against Smaug, which won't be in part 1. However, the chance to have a good film adaptation of such a strong story just draws me in.

And #3 Les Miserables

...because it is real, at least to me this year.

It is this 'reality' that makes 'Les Mis' the one movie that I am looking forward to seeing most this year. For those unfamiliar with the plot, the story follows one Jean Valjean, a poor laborer who stole a loaf of bread in his youth, and has spent the last 19 years as a prisoner. The story follows his life, and the lives of those who interact with him, from the moment of his release from prison, until his death.

The main theme of the story is the response of the human soul to the consequences of its own mistakes. For instance, let's take the woman singing in the trailer, Fantine. The song is her story, here are the complete lyrics:

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side

He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he'll come to me

That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be

So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Fantine sings of her love and dream to live with her man, even though he has abandoned her (and their child) to a life of poverty and suffering. And so she recognizes that 'there are dreams that cannot be.' The 'tigers' have come and destroyed all her hopes and dreams for the future. I never understood exactly what Fantine was singing about until this May.

I made an 'error of judgement', and did something I had sworn I would never do. I knew the action was wrong, but I did it anyway. And so now the consequences have come...and like tigers in the night, they have torn my hopes apart, and turned my dreams into shame. Nothing can save me from the consequences of this choice...not magical fairy spells (a la Brave), or an all-powerful ring or a wizard for a friend (as in The Hobbit). I am completely at the mercy of my failure.

Or am I?

Jean Valjean is in a similar position in the film. He, however, is shown the grace of God through the love of a priest upon his life. Of this experience he sings:

One word from him and I'd be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?

I am reaching, but I fall

And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!

Is there another way to go? YES! I must go to God...and THIS is why I am so excited to see 'Les Mis' when it comes out in December. The plot of this movie reminds me that, even though I have failed, even though I have made bad choices, even though I have betrayed trust, even though my circumstances are punishing my poor judgement, God still loves me. God is still wanting to use my life, to show me grace, to allow me joy.

Is the movie sad? Undoubtedly. Will there be tear-jerking moments? Absolutely. But I will gladly take those moments if they will push me closer to Christ. As Paul says to the Corinthians:

"Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done."

In other words, the sorrow that the movie will bring, will work a great deal more good in me than the momentary joy from the typical movie. This is not to knock the idea of going to see movies like Brave and The Hobbit, but I find that they do not feed my soul as well as a movie like Les Miserables will. I know that I will need that 'real' food to help me forget what is behind, and to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

As Valjean sings:

Who am I?
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I'm not the man I was before?

Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on

...and so I journey on...

In His strength,

No comments: