I love movies. I love the way I get swept up into their grand stories and often - especially after a particularly good move - think a little differently because of them.
And so I've decided to try to write once a month about one movie and what it suggests to me about our life of faith in the world. And, if I can remember to do it, I'll try to post these reflections on the fourth Friday of the month. Why? No particular reason except that then I can call it the Fourth Friday Film Forum. (Corny, I know, but the preacher in me loves alliterations when I can find them. )
So the film I want to talk about is Prometheus, released in the summer of 2012 to great anticipation. An odd choice, I know. For those who haven't seen the film - now available on DVD or instant download - Prometheus is a part science-fiction, part mystery, part horror film. Truth be told, I don't like horror films (basically because I don't like being scared!). But somehow I've really enjoy Ridley Scott's films anyway for the questions they raise. Well, maybe "enjoyed" isn't quite the word, but you probably know what I mean.
Scott is the one who brought us the breakthrough sci-fi thriller Alien in 1979 that led to several more films in that franchise. Prometheus continues that story nearly 35 years later. Actually, Prometheus doesn't continue the story, it starts it. For in this segment we learn how the remarkably frightening and deadly monster of the Alien films gets its start.
Okay, so what does this have to do with faith?
The story starts with the discovery of cave drawings in Scotland that match the drawings found at different parts of the globe. The protagonists of the story - the scientists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway - realize that, taken together, these various drawings provide a star map, perhaps to the planet that is home to the beings who first planted humanity on the earth.
When they finally get to that planet, things predictably go horribly wrong. The alien creatures are not beneficent caretakers but rather a murderous race that have given birth to a creature so malevolent that it leads to their near destruction and will certainly lead to the destruction of everyone on earth...should it be allowed to escape (which then ties to the Alien franchise that takes place as future voyagers encounter one of these creatures in space).
The two questions that I found most interesting in this film were as follows: First, what motivates the two scientists in question is their profound curiosity about where life began. But not all of the characters were even interested in, let alone motivated by, this question. Given my question yesterday about whether the universe has a purpose, you'll not be surprised to learn that I find that question - where and how and to what end did life begin fascinating. What about you? Do these big questions matter, or are they stuff for people with too much time on their hands to worry about. â˜º More seriously, what do you find that motivates you, that drives your curiosity and your energy toward certain ends? And how often, do you think about your faith in relation to questions of meaning and purpose? Does your faith create meaning and purpose?
Speaking of faith: Equally fascinating to me is the faith of Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace) whose father, we learn, was a Christian missionary. Shaw maintains her acute scientific curiosity and her Christian faith to the very end of the film. In fact, when all has gone wrong, and many people have died, and the alien race they discovered is nothing like the beneficent God she'd grown up believing, yet she still believes. In a telling scene, another character asks her, "Even after all this, you still believe, don't you?" Earlier in the film, when asked why she believes she can find these "creators" and that they will be good, she replies, "I choose to believe so." And at the end of the film, we're led to believe she's making another choice - to continue believing the faith of her childhood even in the face or horrific and contradictory circumstances.
And that leads to my second question: most often than not, belief doesn't feel to me any more like a choice than falling in love does. And yet at other times it does, it feels like an intentional decision to believe, often inspite of some significant challenge or set back. Not always, but sometimes. And so I'm curious, when does faith feel like a choice and when not? And even if we believe it's most often not a choice, what are some of the choices we make - going to church, not going; reading the Bible or not, etc. - that influence how we think about and make use of our faith.
One final note on the film: I'll put the preview below, but you should know that while the film was released to great anticipation, for the most part it disappointed the critics. Because I went in with fairly modest expectations, I really enjoyed it.