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  1. I have a brainstorming question for this community: I'm steadily working on my PhD thesis on the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, in which I suggest their films are "cinematic parables" via philosopher Paul Ricoeur's specific description of "parable" as narrative-metaphors with an existential referent, i.e. the story refers to something outside of itself in the real world of human existence. The story stands on its own as a story, yet it also refers to something outside of itself; Ricoeur looks for "signs of metaphoricity" which reveal the story as parable. Ricoeur makes a distinction between parable and allegory; the latter is more didactic and overt, a one-to-one correspondence in the metaphorical reference (e.g. Aslan stands for Jesus) whereas parable can have a polyvalence of interpretations. With parable, the narrative as a whole--as opposed to each individual character or plot element in allegory--refers to Something Else or illuminates that aspect of human existence. In this, parables engage the transcendent via the immanent, "religious" stories which utilize only "secular" language or images, and have a distinct realism, i.e. they're not fantasy or sci-fi or fables, but set in real-world contexts and ordinary, everyday life. These also prompt some sort of action or transformation in the audience; parables intentionally subvert expectations via indirection in both form and content, using the unexpected or a surprising/extraordinary moment to challenge commonly-held beliefs and reshape one's imagination and will. They're both invitational and confrontational; they draw you into the story, then blindside you with a lingering sense of awe and/or disequilibration. If you've seen the Dardennes' films, you can probably see how the above description applies to them. All this to say, I'm looking for film examples which could be considered parables in the sense I'm describing above: realist narrative-metaphors which prompt some rethinking of one's moral and/or theological imagination. I'm especially struggling to find examples of Hollywood or "popular" films which fit this description. I've got plenty of examples in world cinema and indie films, especially in realist traditions (Italian neorealism, British "kitchen sink" realism, etc). But I'm wondering if parable can be "popular" too. The closest I've come up with is a qualified descriptor, i.e. a "sci-fi parable" or "parabolic superhero film" which loses that realism inherent to "true" parables. I'd distinguish parable from fantasy, magical realism, or fables (e.g. Guillermo del Toro). I think some of Chaplin's films, like The Kid or Modern Times, could be considered a parable. (I wrote about Darren Aronofsky's mother! and the genre of parable, if you're interested). Help me brainstorm: what are some examples of cinematic parables?
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