Saturday, 21 November 2009


Okay, so I've just watched 2012 and having listened to quite a few podcasts from the Mars Hill "Cinemagogue" series I am trying to think about films a little more critically. I'm not interested in looking for meaning when there is none there. Charlies Angels: Full Throttle tells us nothing much more than "teenage boys like boobies". Films are not always full of profound insight, however they are an art form and therefore open to legitimate interpretation. JRR Tolkein rejected attempts to allegorise his Rings work, CS Lewis by contrast clearly intended The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be full of symbolism.
So what of 2012? Initially I found it difficult to see any deeper meaning to it. It is basically two and a half hours of the earth getting torn apart by tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes. It is a tale of destruction and is more pre-occupied with impressing us with the scale and realism of the havoc than really engaging us with philosophical considerations. More Armaggedon than Deep Impact, if you will. Nonetheless, there are legitimate subtexts to be mined.
I found myself thinking of the arks into which the few survivors are to be ushered. Everyone with a place had either earned it through their political or scientific seniority or usefulness, or had bought a ticket (at 1 bn euros a pop). As a devastating tidal wave breaks over the Himalayas and the arks ready to float away, thousands of passengers whose ark has been damaged and an army of workers who had built the arks only to be left stranded are begging to be allowed onto the remaining three arks. The US government's chief scientific advisor then becomes a voice of conscience, appealing to the captains of each ark to allow these desperate individuals on board.
It is an abrupt intrusion of the concept of grace into a film that had up until tha point shown no apparent interest in such matters. All of a sudden, our thoughts are drawn to questions of entitlement, merit and salvation. Do these late additions deserve to be saved? No. Have they done anything to merit it? No. Are they going to be crucial to the successful functioning of the arks and the rebuilding of civilisation? No. But it is within the power of those captaining the arks to save them and they are moved by compassion to rescue the undeserving and give them a place among the elect.
I have no call on my Father's grace either. I cannot point to riches or any "deserving" attributes, nothing about me that grants me a seat on the rescue boat. But my Father saw I was in need, in trouble, in need of rescue, helpless and doomed and he opened the doors for me. Of course the story is more complicated than that and the cost to God in order for that door to be opened was almost incalculably high, but the principle runs true. I didn't deserve to be saved but I was and I am forever grateful.