People say it is wise to read books since life is short.

Somehow, books transports you to places and gives you the opportunity to be in other people’s shoes. May it be a detective duo uncovering the identity of an evil professor in 19th century England, a hobbit going through hills and mountains bearing himself a magical ring, a group of young adults exploring the vast world beyond a wardrobe — books offer a passage into limitless possibilities. As long as someone thinks of it and puts it on paper to be read, it’s as if a new world can be constructed in a flick of a finger.

Now, that’s exactly how I feel about movies.

Whenever I see Shawshank Redemption, I feel as if I am part of Andy Dufresne inner circle, laughing every time he shares the story of how he made fun of the guards.

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Or joining Cooper and Brand in interstellar travel, traveling through the complex nature of time and space in order to find a new home for the sake of humanity.

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Perhaps entering the world of Inception, exploiting the world of dreams with Cobb and his crime circle.

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These feelings may even last until the last credits roll, following even to the way home, taking up a distinct space on the mind.

Roger Ebert, a renowned film critic, testifies of the same thing:

Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else’s life for a while. I can walk in somebody else’s shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief.

The first memory of movies that I have was watching The Green Mile at a cinema that I still go to even until this day. It was 1999, which means I was only four, and I remember that I was half scared seeing a convict played by Michael Clarke Duncan opened his mouth and hundreds of dark-colored particles came out after he supernaturally healed a prison guard played by Tom Hanks.

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I still remember the moment when I was getting ready to watch the first Harry Potter movie after reading about it on a magazine. It is rather surprising to realize that I was only six, and it happened over 16 years ago. Whoa.

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The cinema looks completely different now. It was once surrounded by dark blue wall, having a large selection of arcade games near the left entrance with their blaring arcade-y sounds, and there was a section near the line of movie posters where people can see photos of shots that are in the movie they were about to watch. Now the cinema looks much more elegant with better lighting and a dark cream and golden tone covering the walls. There are also more studios and a distinct room filled with arcade machines so the blaring sound of the games wouldn’t fill the atrium anymore.

The place may have changed, yet the memory remains timeless.

As I got older, I realized that some movies aren’t only moving pictures where the main character hops around until two hours pass and a happy ending is presented. Some seem to want to talk about tough topics. Off the top of my head, the Oscar-winning musical drama, La La Land for instance seems to focus on the topic of achieving one’s dream. The same could be said for Whiplash which portrays a realistic and rather brutal depiction of working hard to make it to the top.

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It’s as if those kind of movies speaks, that the lines that were uttered when combined with the moving images captured by the camera, the looks and expressions of the characters are trying to calmly whisper a voice that transcends the realm of the movie itself — the voice of the filmmaker.

Directors and screenwriters seem to have a way with relating to human emotion, getting us to cry on moment’s notice, ignites laugh, or even contempt. Their creative approach in doing so testifies of a certain truth that binds all audiences — the human part in each one of us.  Of great movies, George Ebert says, “The great movies enlarge us, they civilize us, they make us more decent people.”

The way movie communicates about the mysterious, the sacred, the beautiful, and how all these elements relate on a personal level, I think is the main source of awe. In a way, my whole worldview is shaped by these things I watch over the years, tested and polished, in order to find the answer of what makes us human.

Movies and the Christian Faith

One of the reasons why I like to watch movies is that I can think most clearly when I am feasting on these moving pictures. While this may sound like going to the movies isn’t a relaxing activity for me, it actually is.

After long hours of sitting in a classroom or an office, for instance, it is such a great moment to just lay back with a bag of popcorn and drink on each side of the armrest, and reflect on life itself. Being a follower of Christ, I’d feel stimulated whenever a movie explores the theme of love. Not exclusively on romantic love, but rather on a higher kind — a lasting, and an eternal kind. Just like when Brand, a character from Interstellar says of love:

Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving, that transcends dimensions of time and space.

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That line really did an impact on me. Contemplating on the theme of love biblically, I find this to be consistent to the Christian faith. Jesus says of the greatest commandment, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).

About love, John writes, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10).

In the great epistle to the Romans, Paul writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). He continues, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

The eternal and inscrutable love of God, bestowed unto His creations and His people, O how mighty and mysterious is this truth! O how this should change how we view our relationship with other people who are also created in God’s image, and most importantly, how our all devotion should be directed to Him alone.

Another example would be paternal love, a theme that can easily be found in most family movies. Of parents the Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).

The captivating love between a woman and his son portrayed in the 2015 movie Room for example, a portrayal that surely is an effective tearjerker, when compared to God’s Word should then invite us to meditate on a love that is more transcendent, that even the strong bond of a mother and her child don’t come close. O how this should point us to the inscrutable love of Our Heavenly Father!

How immeasurable is this love! May we join Paul contemplating with other Christians, “.. the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” (Ephesians 3:18-19). O how such knowledge should compel us to love God more!

These are several examples of why movies are really precious to me. For me, these movies are great because they make most of Christ. Even though the directors don’t intentionally mean it to be so, the messages that they’re trying to deliver for me are whispers of deep yearning for something transcendent, Something awe-inducing in which all pleasure dwells, the One that deserves all praise and honor, the Trinitarian God Himself.

In the end, I love watching movies because they make me a believer. I hope it does the same to you too.

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5 thoughts on “On Movies

  1. I came across your blog today and I was impressed with what I read. But I saw this post, and I was wonder about something. As a Christian I’m sure you would agree that we should not take part in or condone anything that is evil. (Ephesians 5:11) My concern is that some of the movies that you listed have much evil in them. I just don’t see how you as a Christian can justify watching them. I’m not just wanting to point a finger at you and say your wrong but to have an honest discussion.

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    1. Hi John,
      Thank you for taking the time to read my blogposts! I really appreciate it.

      Yeah that’s a valid point. To be honest, I struggle with it, to truly determine which movie is worth watching and which isn’t. I’d be lying if I’m saying that my heart is rightly motivated whenever I’m seeing a movie. But as for the movies that I’m listing (I’m assuming The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Whiplash are some of the movies you’re referring to, since they’re rated R), I can’t say that I’m recommending those movies to everyone (and far be it for me to commend the actions portrayed in those movies!), but I personally don’t think the bad actions are necessarily the main message that the movie’s trying to deliver.

      The directors and the screenwriters of those movies might not be Christian (or maybe they are), but this deep yearning of transcendence, this existential groaning expressed in their works, that’s what I’m trying to focus on. Whenever I’m watching those movies, personally I’m not in any way felt encouraged to imitate the antagonists, but rather most of the time they act as a reflection of the remaining evil in me (Romans 7:22-25), a reminder of how all things should point to Him (Romans 11:36, 2 Corinthians 10:5-6), and of His common grace. That’s why watching those movies don’t bother my conscience but rather deepens my faith. Yet I understand that this is not some absolute law of evaluating art (yes, movies are art! :D) , so I understand if this doesn’t apply to everyone.

      This topic of Christian liberty I think surely raises a lot of questions and critiques, which is understandable. Yet I hope this writing of mine doesn’t act as a stumbling block in any way and encourages you to see that His fingerprint is everywhere, even in the movies we see at the cinema.

      Let me know if you have any thoughts about my response! And once again, thank you John! 🙂

      P.S: I hope this doesn’t sound too defensive, but there is an extensive list of award-winning movies and tv shows that I don’t plan on watching because I’m well aware of the profanity and violence portrayed there (since I lose nothing if I’m not watching them anyway!). Yet I know that some of my friends who are Christians see (and perhaps) even enjoy them. So I’m aware of how this question of “which movies are right to watch” could be tricky!

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  2. Tommy,
    It is hard to know which movies to watch. I think that as Christians we should not watch anything that promotes sin or teaches anything contrary to the Bible(Psalm 101:3,4). Now I want to say that I’m not perfect and struggle with this area too, but I think that this is an area that many Christians are being careless in and that it is having a bad effect. The only movie that I really knew in your list was Harry Potter, which some may think is just a harmless movie, but it is filled with witchcraft and sorcery; two things that the Bible say is wrong, not to mention the inmodesty. If we set this evil before our eyes, no matter how much good comes along with it, it will begin to desensitise us to sin.

    Just something to think about: You wouldn’t eat an apple to get the good out it if you knew it had poison in it that would make you sick but not kill you, would you? No, you would eat a good apple. Sin is like poison in our lives which unlike the poison in the apple scenario,will kill us.

    I’ve enjoyed our conversation so far and look forward to reading your blog in the future. 😁

    P.S.
    I’m not that great of a writer and find it hard to put my thoughts down in writing, so I hope I was able to articulate myself well enough. Again, just wanting to have an honest discussion here, not trying to put you down or anything. 😀 👍🏻

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    1. Hi John,

      Thank you for getting back to me! I agree, as Christians we shouldn’t watch anything that is contrary to the Bible. And yes, there are many ways in which sin may just creep in unnoticed. It is wise to guard our hearts and to set boundaries for we have been saved by grace and our hearts have been changed.

      Absolutely, I wouldn’t eat such an apple! I’m really glad to hear someone having such a critical view of sin.

      Yet, John, since you mentioned Harry Potter, although they do include elements that could be related to witchcraft (spells, cursed items, and the sorts), I’m quite positive that the author is not in any way trying to promote such element nor tolerate such practice. The same goes I think for other fantasy movies set in similar magical lands, like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Lewis’ Narnia (which include a lot of Christian allegory!). The main characters in those stories may sin gravely, like Edmund who betrayed Aslan in Judas-like fashion, yet the story doesn’t end there, for Aslan sacrificed himself in place of Edmund, which reflects the gospel message.

      I think it’s worth considering that Harry Potter also promotes virtues like loyalty, meekness, bravery, which are virtues worth cultivating in the life of a Christian. One may say that this apple is tainted by un-Christian elements like sorcery, yet like those great works of Lewis and Tolkien, it doesn’t necessarily act as a rebellious view rivaling Christianity.

      Thank you John, I too have been enjoying this conversation! I think what we’re discussing here would make a great blogpost. I’ll keep you posted 😉

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