Getting Emotional with Movies, Part 3: Food For Thought
Before you try to wrap your head around Food for Thought, be sure to vent your frustrations with Anger.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Films that stimulate one’s mental energy can range from mindbenders, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, to documentaries that deal with societal issues, like The Thin Blue Line. Me, I like movies that explore moral dilemmas, or that offer insight into our existence (particularly the absurdity of it). Here are a couple of movies about people who attempt to find meaning through religion and faith that in some way represent my own outlook on the subject:
If Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver represents for me some sort of dark anti-hero man of action in a messed up world, Hazel Motes in Wise Blood could be his philosophical counterpart. Though both characters have a slightly warped concept of reality, there is still a certain truth and conviction fueling their world views. Bickle declares war on pimps and other low-lifes, while Motes seeks to expose religious charlatans and hypocrites. Neither have much of a game plan, but they know that they need to do something.
Going by the flashbacks in Wise Blood, Hazel Motes apparently had a strange religious upbringing. He’s introduced in the film as a soldier coming back from the war who intends to “Do some things I ain’t never done before.” Declaring that he believes in nothing, he heads off to the city and starts preaching the gospel of The Church of Christ Without Christ. It’s a church that anybody can join, accepts no donations and doesn’t believe in redemption or sin. The only person who even comes close to being a follower is an eccentric kid who later develops an obsession with a guy in a gorilla suit.
In his quest to spread the gospel, he encounters two nemeses. The first is a shady preacher who pretends to be blind. It’s later revealed that he promised his followers that he would blind himself for Jesus, but never went through with it. Motes ends up dating his lusty daughter. The second is a con man who starts a copycat Church of Christ Without Christ. He dresses up a senile old man like a preacher and has him recite Motes’s sermons. Angered at his lack of integrity, Motes later stalks the old man and murders him.
The one thing Motes does believe in is a used car that he purchases for $200. Despite various mechanics telling him that it’s barely functional, he refuses to accept their diagnosis. Believing that, in his words, “No man with a good car needs to be justified!”, Motes’s sense of self-worth apparently rests in his decrepit vehicle. When he attempts to drive to another city to resume his preaching, a police officer pulls Motes over because he doesn’t like the look of him. When he mouths off, the cop pushes his car into the lake. This is more than Motes can take, and his psychological state enters into sharp decline.
The lesson that I learned from Wise Blood is that if you’re not going to believe in anything, that should extend to junky used cars. Instead of adopting “No man with a good car needs to be justified!” as my motto, I’m opting for another bit of Hazel Motes wisdom instead: “Where you come from is gone. Where you thought you were going weren’t never there. And where you are ain’t no good unless you can get away from it.” That way, I won’t get comfortable enough with anything to misplace my faith in it.
Another end of the world prediction came and went recently, but it appears that all the best and worst of us are still here mingling together. Personally, I’ve never been religious or spiritual. I am interested in what motivates others to hold onto supernatural beliefs, however, even when faced with doubt and disappointment. The Rapture deals with one woman’s struggle with finding meaning through faith. What fascinates me about the film is that she takes that struggle as far as it can possibly go, with haunting results.
The Rapture involves an information operator, Sharon, who spends her free time engaging in meaningless sexual encounters. Feeling unsatisfied that “A day is always just over”, she starts regretting the lack of purpose in her life. When she overhears some co-workers discussing an apocalyptic dream they’ve all had, she ingratiates herself with their religious group and dedicates her life to the Lord.
Sharon marries her lover after converting him, and together they have a daughter. When her husband is killed by a crazed gunman, she receives a Divine message to wait in the desert with her daughter for Judgement Day. As days extend into weeks, her faith and peace of mind gradually corrodes until she is driven to commit an heinous act (or not, depending on how one looks at it in the context of the film). Angry and confused, Sharon renounces her beliefs.
The question as to why anyone would have faith in an afterlife that they can’t prove exists often comes up in religious debates. However, The Rapture proceeds under the assumption that there is an afterlife, and that the apocalyptic warnings from the Bible are true. (The point of the movie, the way I interpret it, is for the viewer to consider the implications of such a scenario.) As the prophecies from the Book of Revelations literally unfold, Sharon only becomes more defiant. Her decision at the climax could be viewed as horribly misguided, or as a brave act of personal integrity. Either way, it left me thinking that Pascal’s Wager is for wussies.
Come back on Wednesday when we look at movies that stimulate a different part of the anatomy with Desire.
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Chad as kingofpain on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.