Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Restless for Good Art"

The Dominicana blog sums up why I haven't been interested in seeing any of the new breed of highly-commercialized Christian films
If this is the dynamic of art—reaching into reality, being changed by it, and revealing that transformative truth to others—then we can understand why books, films, or paintings that only serve as a vehicle for spreading an idea fail as art. Formally speaking, they are more akin to propaganda, even if they use the material of art. Writing a song because I want more people to buy my brand of toothpaste may be a valuable commercial move, but it is not art. Making a movie because I want more people to acknowledge St. Augustine as the greatest doctor of the Latin Church may be laudable catechesis, but it won’t turn into art.
I know I won't be seeing Restless Heart, the movie about St. Augustine -- the film seems to have re-written his life as a simplistic thriller.
We can learn a lot about the problems of Catholic filmmaking from Christian Duguay’s new film Restless Heart, a dramatized account of St. Augustine’s life and conversion. As a film,Restless Heart has its high points, even if in general it suffers from poor pacing and uninspiring dialogue. As a biography of a great theologian, the film fares worse; recognizing the difficulties in staging most of Augustine’s life (How does one film a gradual conversion from Skepticism to Neo-platonism?), Restless Heart blithely invents a more exciting history for him, turning the troubled young professor of rhetoric into a hotshot lawyer with a devil-may-care attitude who, after cooperating in a massacre of Milanese Christians, miraculously converts and triumphs over all his adversaries, notably including a scene in which all the heretical Donatist bishops in North Africa agree that the Roman Church has the true faith, and seal their conversion with group hugs.
Drama springs from change, which makes the Christian life of constant change and conversion uniquely dramatic. But when the primary "Christian" paradigm of art becomes one of trivializing and sensationalizing Christianity to fit into a mass-market package, then the true interior drama of being transformed through the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2) is lost.


Jenny said...

While in high school, I knew a large contingent of Southern Baptists who would only watch Christian movies and only listen to Christian music. The idea was that they were guarding their hearts and minds, which is good as far as that goes, but most of it was objectively terrible as art. I would have gone crazy.

MrsDarwin said...

I don't think it's possible to play total defense in the hearts-'n-minds war. One can't keep one's heart in a state of stasis -- every experience, and reaction to experienc, serves to soften, calcify, form, or deform us. "Guarding one's heart" seems to be merely a response to culture, and one that doesn't allow Christians to define their own terms in the discussion of what is or is not good art.

Eric Mendoza said...

Look at the bright side, Mrs. Darwin, at least the film teaches us a very valuable lesson: we can solve schism and conflict in our midst simply through the power of group hugs!

c matt said...

I hate to admit it, but I felt the same way about For Greater Glory. Although the cinematography was good, the dialogue was a little too stilted, staged, unengaging. Except for the performance by the young boy, the rest just did not seem to really capture anything. To many "big speeches" that seemed more like preaching/propaganda than actual dialogue between real people in a real crisis. It was really difficult to get true feel for what it would have been like. AS for conversions, it seemed some characters changed their minds on major issues with the same speed as switching lanes on an open highway.

I had really hoped for better.