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Decalogue "Spiritual"?


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#1 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 02:48 AM

...but still, I want to ask it. (Colour me annoying).

I'm thinking about how DEKALOG was a total shoe-in when we set out our A&F 100 a year ago. And I'm wanting to poke at that a bit.

Rosenbaum commented that "some critics' patter to the contrary, Kieslowski belongs to the agnostic Bergman camp, not to the mystical Tarkovsky one." And that feels about right to me. These films poke at ethical conundrums, but neither seem necessarily to invoke God or anything particularly transcendent (depending what you make of the watcher), nor to have a particularly Biblical perspective on the conundrums posed. Sure the Ten Commandments are loosely a point of departure, but... So what? Fascination with moral predicaments isn't necessarily spiritual. Heck, Greenaway and Wertumuller poke away at moral predicaments, but in my limited exposure both seem frankly morally repugnant.

Believe me, I'm not going all fundie here. I'm as fascinated as the next guy by the Dekalog films. Indeed, I love the moral ambiguities: as an artist, I'm much more attracted to the grey areas, questions that land between moral certainties, than I am to the "we can be sure about this one" black and white stuff. So I'm really tickled by Dekalog, since that's where it lives.

But if these ten flicks hadn't been labelled as they are, would it have occurred to anybody to label them particularly spiritual? Are we just so tickled to have our religion name-checked by folks with artsy cred that we lose all perspective? MAGNOLIA is a fab film, and I'm real keen on PTA's movies - but if there were no frogs, and no added-after-the-fact Exodus clues, would Christians have gone so ballistic over MAGNOLIA? And then had their enthusiasm spread, virus-like, to Anderson's other films? (Okay, MAGNOLIA also had the other element that's sure to exaggerate our interest in a film, and that's a sympathetically viewed Christian character, the cop. But you get my point?)

Did our enthusiasm over THREE COLOURS (and VERONIQUE?) stem from the fact that we mistook Kieslowski's interests in DEKALOG for some sort of interest in religion, or transcendence, or the bible, or Christianity or something?

Admittedly, I'm being a bit provocative here. I don't mean anyone to get all bent out of shape about this - it's not particularly important to me that films be religious at all. But... Are these? Or did folks get suckered by a sort of unthinking knee-jerk enthusiasm? "Hey! A great film maker made movies about our commandments! Cool...."

Did DEKALOG get a top seed in last year's "Spiritually Significant Films" tournament just because the films were being discussed in their own special section, so everybody just kind of assumed they must be really really spiritual? The way people vote for candidates just because they've heard the name a lot? Never mind if it was on wanted posters slapped up all over town - name recognition translates into votes. (Because the really curious thing is, now that I get around to watching the rest of these films and work my way through the discussion threads, I realize how little discussion there actually was! A handful of substantial posts specifically about the fims themselves, rarely responded to, in amongst lots of planning and scheduling and apologizing for not posting, and side-discussions about the issues but not the films, and... Are we REALLY so keen on these films? Or did we just vote because they have a Christian-positive title?

*

I'll put it another way. As groovy as these movies are, as much as they provoke thought about intriguing moral quandaries, compare them to Bresson, Tarkovsky, even DEAR GOD for goodness sake! Those films believe that there's Somebody Out There, that humans are inherently spiritual (if lost and sinful) creatures. Does DEKALOG (or any Kieslowski) go anywhere near that?

(You don't need to argue your case strongly. I'm not even convinced by my own case. Just a simple handful of counter-examples would suffice to put me back onside here...)

Ron

Edited by Ron, 08 July 2005 - 02:54 AM.


#2 gigi

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 04:51 AM

Firstly, I think that one has to be careful of having too prescriptive a definition of spirituality. It's something that has been deliberately left open with regards the nominations. Although I understand the reasons why, I'm not sure I particularly agree with this. It's kind of like the thread about the UCC not affirming that 'Jesus is Lord', or Bush's decision about embryonic research. In raising this question about the Dekalog you are inevitably begining a discussion on limiting the definition of spirituality. To be honest, I believe that this would be healthy for such an enterprise otherwise it becomes kind of redundant.

As for your opinion on Dekalog. I'd go with you on this actually. I think cases can be made for individual 'chapters' of the series though some others fall far short off the mark. Perhaps this is as simple a matter of nominating the whole series as opposed to individual chapters, but that's gonna start a different debate.

For me, the more spiritually significant chapters are
Chapter one
Chapter two (largely because of the Dr's presence)
Chapter five
Chapter eight

All the chapters made me think for a while but these left me with a bigger niggle, located in the pit of my stomach rather than at the back of my mind. I could probably elaborate if so needed.

#3 MattPage

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 05:43 AM

Who are you? And what have you done with the real Ron Reed?

First Millions and now Magnolia [shakes head in disbelief] - Maybe it's just films with Ms in the title.

Matt

#4 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:16 AM

Your point about Bergman vs. Tarkovsky is interesting, Ron ... but do we not have Bergman films in our Top 100 list, too?

#5 Russ

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:50 AM

Ron, great topic. I guess it hits me in the right place because last year when we were talking about the Top 100 I remember wondering what makes a "spiritual" film. And you're certainly right that we make easy decisions to include those films which make the struggle for faith their explicit centerpiece, like Ordet or Diary of a Country Priest. Kicking it around more, though, I kind of came to the conclusion for myself at least that a spiritual film is simply one that points to the ineffable, or inspires me to live an examined life.

In that regard, apart from its dramaturgical adherence to the Commandments, I get that feeling from Kieslowski's film (and, really, from all of Kieslowski that I've seen, some less than others, surely). It's different from other moral conundrum stories for me because Kieslowski never lets me lose sight over the fact that the acts, decisions and ideas of the characters bear a direct relationship to a larger search for grounding meaning.

And w.r.t the comparison between Kieslowski and the silent God of Bergman, perhaps that's sometimes apt, but not when I watch A Short Film About Love.

#6 Doug C

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:09 AM

Well, first off, as much as I admire and respect Rosenbaum's writing, he often makes a point of dismissing religious labels for directors he admires. Here are some representative comments from his 1990 review of Solaris:

"To me, at least, the notion of spirituality in film art has always had something more than a little suspect about it. Filmmakers as diverse as Robert Bresson, Carl Dreyer, Leo McCarey, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini, and Michael Snow are frequently praised for their allegedly 'transcendental' styles when it seems more appropriate to value them for qualities that suggest the opposites of spirituality and transcendence: the brute materiality of the worlds of Mizoguchi and Renoir, the physicality of McCarey and Ozu, the carnal sense of flesh in Bresson and Dreyer, the skepticism of Rossellini, the relentless mechanisms of Snow. If 'pure' transcendence is what one is after, I'm afraid that even the more bogus spirituality of Disney, DeMille, and Spielberg may come closer to the mark.

I'm not trying to argue that a filmmaker's religious beliefs are irrelevant to his or her art. But it does seem to me that none of the best filmmakers requires religious beliefs in order to be understood or appreciated. . . . John Huston's remarkably precise film adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel Wise Blood is the work of a believer 'translated' by a nonbeliever, and there is nothing in the film that suggests any obvious sort of betrayal."

It seems to me that the second sentence in the second paragraph defines the heart of such criticism, and to that end, I would agree with him; I don't think one needs to be a Catholic in order to appreciate Bresson. But I think the first paragraph is an overcompensation and comes dangerously close to offering an impoverished view of those filmmakers in an effort to free them of religious labels.

(Paradoxically, Rosenbaum has written that The House is Black is "spiritual, unflinching, and beautiful in ways that have no apparent Western counterparts; to my eyes and ears, it registers like a prayer" and of Le fils, "To my knowledge there's no one else making films with such a sharp sense of contemporary working-class life--but for the Dardennes it's only the starting point of a spiritual and profoundly ethical odyssey." Go figure.)

Secondly, Kieslowski himself may have been a critical thinker, a natural doubter, and a playful curmudgeon, but in the documentary I'm So-So, he also refers to his prayer life, and in an interview at Cannes for Red (included on the DVD), he readily embraces the label "metaphysical" and talks about rasing his daughter as a Catholic. I only mention those two examples to suggest that I wouldn't be so quick to cast aside religious labels for the same reason I'm careful how I apply them: both extremes have an air of presumption and can reveal more about the personal agendas of the writers than the art of the filmmakers if we don't tread lightly. And charges of intentionality are always a slippery fish.

But as to The Decalogue...I agree with gigi that constraining "spirituality" to a particular definition can be problematic. Certainly, the films are based on a text that is equally ethical and theological, and I think echoes of both notions inform the series on a pretty deep level. The watcher character is a conspicuously mystical oddity in the films that may not be developed to a complex level, but certainly suggests some kind of presence aware of the human plight.

And The Decalogue is uncommonly sensitive to the human experience of processing moral issues and attempting to physically, emotionally live according to (implied) values in this world. For me, that's all it takes to receive the "spiritual" moniker because it certainly provokes in me consideration of theological issues like the problem of evil, suffering, injustice, etc. (Incidently, I'd say the same thing for Magnolia and Trois Colours.) Have you seen Blue, Ron? Did you note that the whole film questions attachment and the notion of love and then culminates with an exultant chorus singing 1st Corinthians chapter 13? How much more spiritual does it have to be?

On the other hand, I appreciate your question because I think many believers do rely on superficial meausures of "spirituality" to sanctify their favorite movies or apply easy labels because of the presence of a few key symbols or phrases a la the career of Keannu Reeves. And I actually think Rosenbaum and a lot of critics like him are reacting against that sort of easy religious mumbo jumbo that merely appeals to the already converted.


#7 Doug C

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:42 AM

Incidentally, one of the qualities I most admire in Christian spirituality is its non-dualistic view of the universe. Material and physical qualities may "suggest the opposites of spirituality and transcendence" for Rosenbaum, but for me, "spirituality" includes the physical as well as the transcendent and "transcendence" in and of itself can be very limited. I consider filmmakers like Bresson and Dreyer (and Farrokhzad and the Dardennes) "spiritual" precisely because of their embrace of the physical world as well as something beyond it.

Edited by Doug C, 08 July 2005 - 11:45 AM.


#8 Christian

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:50 AM

QUOTE(Doug C @ Jul 8 2005, 11:42 AM)
Incidentally, one of the qualities I most admire in Christian spirituality is its non-dualistic view of the universe.  Material and physical qualities may "suggest the opposites of spirituality and transcendence" for Rosenbaum, but for me, "spirituality" includes the physical as well as the transcendent and "transcendence" in and of itself can be very limited.  I consider filmmakers like Bresson and Dreyer (and Farrokhzad and the Dardennes) "spiritual" precisely because of their embrace of the physical world as well as something beyond it.

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I just wanted to add, nonchalantly, that what you wrote is the key to understanding just about everything in the Christian life, and certainly notions of spiritual cinema.

I can't tell from your excerpt if Rosenbaum equates spiritual cinema with Christian notions of spirituality. I'm guessing he doesn't. But it might be worth noting that many, many Christians don't understand the point you're making above, Doug. Such dualism has seemed to me, in the past, to be more of a problem in the Catholic tradition, but it's so pervasive among Protestants that I'm not sure it's worth making any distinction.

#9 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:53 AM

QUOTE(Russ @ Jul 8 2005, 07:50 AM)
...I kind of came to the conclusion for myself at least that a spiritual film is simply one that points to the ineffable, or inspires me to live an examined life.

Oh, that's very good! I like that. Helps me differentiate between films that are merely heady philosophical enquiries (which I don't necessarily find to have anything particularly spiritual about them) and films that are engaging with philosophical issues that somehow seem intimately bound up with Christian faith, religion, spirituality, whatever it's being called at the moment.

Very helpful.

QUOTE
Kieslowski never lets me lose sight over the fact that the acts, decisions and ideas of the characters bear a direct relationship to a larger search for grounding meaning. 


Bullseye again.


#10 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 12:14 PM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 8 2005, 07:16 AM)
Your point about Bergman vs. Tarkovsky is interesting, Ron ...

Not my point, originally. But I'll take some credit, since I invited Rosie into the conversation.

QUOTE
...but do we not have Bergman films in our Top 100 list, too?

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Well, yes, we do. I have a million qualms about Bergman, but that's undoubtedly best elaborated in another thread. To scratch the surface, though... Having grown up Lutheran, having come of age in the "God Is Dead Or AWOL" sixties in the context of that church, I'm all too familiar with the folks (including clergy) whose main preoccupation was the absence or irrelevance of God, whose preoccupation was their own pain and certainty that God had abandoned them (or that God-belief had abandonened them). That seems to be where Bergman lives. And while I'm quite willing for those folks to agonize in that way, and can be respectful and even compassionate toward them in their grieving, I do wonder whether dwelling on it makes some of them get stuck there. Some get pretty invested in their grief (especially if they write a book about it, or speak eloquently about it, or get strokes for expressing such feelings) and can strand themselves on an island without God when He's pulling up to the dock every hour on the hour and inviting them to come aboard, sail away from the God-deserted island with Him and have a great time with Him. Also, I do happen to experience God as alive and present and good, so when people go on too long about him being dead or absent or bad, I just kind of lose interest. For a while I'm more than willing to find out how life feels for them, to remember that there are people who are starving in this world even though I'm well fed. But at a certain point I just think, "Well, it may feel true for you, but it doesn't seem like you're picking up on the bigger reality here." That's Bergman for me. I'm sorry his life sucks, but the generalizations he draws about God, The Universe And Everything seem to me simply to be wrong. So, are his films Spiritual? In a sense, yes, since he's preoccupied with spiritual things - spiritual death and aridity and absence. But in another sense, is he affirming what is "spiritual," is he telling the truth about "spiritual things", is he creating films that speak to my "spirit"? Nope. The opposite, in fact.

Doesn't mean films need to be happy in order for me to think them "spritual." AU HASARD BALTHAZAR would be a prime counter-example, but I'd hasten to list many (most?) of my absolute favourite films which also speak to me spiritually. But almost inevitably they affirm the reality of God (or grace, or forgiveness, or light, or hope) in the most godless, or bitter, or dark, or hopeless circumstances. I'm thinking BAD LIEUTENANT, I'm thinking MAGNOLIA. To complicate things further, I'm even thinking DOGVILLE - while grace may not carry the day, it's real enough, it's offered, even though it may be refused, and the consequences of refusal are unpleasant in the extreme. It at least wrestles with the reality of grace and generosity and community, even if it shows that those good gifts can be violated.

(And hey, don't blame me for Bergman being on our list. I'd send the guy and his spiritual pessimism right back to Norway if I had my druthers....)

(Now, where's the emoticon for talking through your hat with your tongue in your cheek?...)


#11 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 12:17 PM

QUOTE(MattPage @ Jul 8 2005, 02:43 AM)
Who are you? And what have you done with the real Ron Reed?

Hey, you I'm not talking to. Until you tell us what you did with MattPage, at least where we can find his body, I'll converse no further. (MILLIONS indeed....)




#12 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 12:18 PM

But I can't dig in on Doug's juicy post just now. Have to take my daughter for driving practice. Dad first, cinephile second...

#13 Doug C

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 12:36 PM

QUOTE(Ron @ Jul 8 2005, 10:14 AM)
So, are his films Spiritual?  In a sense, yes, since he's preoccupied with spiritual things - spiritual death and aridity and absence.  But in another sense, is he affirming what is "spiritual," is he telling the truth about "spiritual things", is he creating films that speak to my "spirit"?  Nope.  The opposite, in fact.

In light of Russ' remarks and yours here, Ron, I'm reminded of another fine Lutheran, Paul Tillich, who defined faith as the engagement of "ultimate concern." Faith is asking the questions, searching, probing--regardless of our momentary conclusions at any given point, which as many of us know can vary from time to time depending on our moods, experiences, and evolving convictions.

Here's a Tillich quote:

"Faith is a concept--and a reality--which is difficult to grasp and to describe. Almost every word by which faith has been described ... is open to new misinterpretations. This cannot be otherwise, since faith is not a phenomenon besides others, but the central phenomenon in man's personal life, manifest and hidden at the same time. Faith is an essential possibility in man, and therefore its existence is necessary and universal.... If faith is understood for what it centrally is, ultimate concern, it cannot be undercut by modern science or any kind of philosophy.... Faith stands upon itself and justifies itself against those who attack it, because they can attack it only in the name of another faith. It is the triumph of the dynamics of faith that any denial of faith is itself an expression of faith, of an ultimate concern."

I'm not the biggest Bergman fan, but I do acknowledge the "spiritual" component of his films inasmuch as he addresses faith as "the central phenomenon in man's personal life" regardless of his conclusions and asserts the importance of addressing ultimate concern. And I think Kieslowski's quest for "the inner life" of his characters as it relates to ultimate concern is similarly valid, even definitional for spirituality.

On the other hand, I do wish Bergman came to more positive conclusions at times. But he beats Herbie.

#14 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 12:40 PM

Christian wrote:
: Such dualism has seemed to me, in the past, to be more of a problem in the Catholic
: tradition, but it's so pervasive among Protestants that I'm not sure it's worth making
: any distinction.

Hmmm. From an Orthodox perspective, I believe Catholicism and Protestantism are regarded as two sides of the same coin -- they both tend towards an excessive focus on the grim and gritty earth, towards Aristotelian "realism" or naturalism.

The Renaissance, which began a few centuries after the Schism between East and West, and which began shortly after Sir Thomas Aquinas brought a renewed focus on Aristotelian thought into Catholic theology, represented a shift towards "realistic" forms of art that emphasized the humanity of Christ at least as much as, if not more than, his divinity -- hence the emphasis on his genitals, among other things -- but this quickly devolved into the man-centred, as opposed to God-centred, humanism of the 18th and 19th centuries.

I suppose it is possible that the Eastern sensibility runs the risk of veering in the opposite direction, of affirming the divine and the transcendent so much that it loses sight of the human -- that it is so focused on heaven that it loses sight of earth -- but I do know that there are passages in scripture itself which affirm that there is something about Spirit that is higher and nobler than mere Matter.

Indeed, Matter depends for its very existence on the creative power of Spirit, whereas Spirit does not depend on Matter for its own existence. And I don't think it is "Dualism" to note that there are at least these two levels to reality, and that one is higher than the other. The problem comes when, like the Gnostics, we REJECT Matter. And the whole point of the sacramental worldview -- both Orthodox and Catholic -- is that the material world can be infused with the spiritual.

#15 Darren H

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 12:40 PM

QUOTE
That seems to be where Bergman lives. And while I'm quite willing for those folks to agonize in that way, and can be respectful and even compassionate toward them in their grieving, I do wonder whether dwelling on it makes some of them get stuck there.


I would have fought you tooth-and-nail over this a few years ago, but it's occured to me lately (maybe during our discussion of Fanny and Alexander) that I've grown to feel the same way toward Bergman. Cries and Whispers and The Silence are probably my favorite of his films, preceisely because they are such potent and strangely-beautiful depictions of his grief, but I look now at the large collection of Bergman DVDs on my shelf and must admit that I feel no desire to revisit most of them.

#16 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 03:32 PM

QUOTE(Doug C @ Jul 8 2005, 08:09 AM)
Well, first off, as much as I admire and respect Rosenbaum's writing, he often makes a point of dismissing religious labels for directors he admires.  ..."To me, at least, the notion of spirituality in film art has always had something more than a little suspect about it. ...the brute materiality of the worlds of Mizoguchi and Renoir, the physicality of McCarey and Ozu, the carnal sense of flesh in Bresson and Dreyer, the skepticism of Rossellini, the relentless mechanisms of Snow.  If 'pure' transcendence is what one is after, I'm afraid that even the more bogus spirituality of Disney, DeMille, and Spielberg may come closer to the mark."

Good call, Doug! Sounds like he's not got a great handle on the Immanence side of the Transcendent/Immanent dialectic. Bresson is all about looking closely at the quotidian realities to see the Something Else that's also lurking around. "charged with the grandeur of God," all that glorious Hopkins stuff.

QUOTE
I'm not trying to argue that a filmmaker's religious beliefs are irrelevant to his or her art.  But it does seem to me that none of the best filmmakers requires religious beliefs in order to be understood or appreciated. . . .

Fair enough, I suppose, though his assertion raises two counter questions. Is it not possible that someone with a strongly spiritual orientation in their life/sensibility might have a particular sensitivity to certain aspects of certain films, particularly if those films are being crafted by people similarly inclined? Is there no Christian analogue to gay-dar? And the second counter-question: hasn't he changed the topic? To say a film requires religious beliefs in order to be understood is quite a different matter than whether spirituality can be a significant component of film art.

QUOTE
"John Huston's remarkably precise film adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel Wise Blood is the work of a believer 'translated' by a nonbeliever, and there is nothing in the film that suggests any obvious sort of betrayal."

What?!?!?!?!?!!! Is he on drugs? I can't think of any better example of a director violating the essence of an adapted work, precisely because his worldview is profoundly different than that of the original writer. Huston's film is fascinating, but he seriously doesn't GET O'Connor.

QUOTE
It seems to me that the second sentence in the second paragraph defines the heart of such criticism, and to that end, I would agree with him; I don't think one needs to be a Catholic in order to appreciate Bresson.  But I think the first paragraph is an overcompensation and comes dangerously close to offering an impoverished view of those filmmakers in an effort to free them of religious labels.

Yeah. That's what I meant to say!

QUOTE
(Paradoxically, Rosenbaum has written that The House is Black is "spiritual, unflinching, and beautiful in ways that have no apparent Western counterparts; to my eyes and ears, it registers like a prayer" and of Le fils, "To my knowledge there's no one else making films with such a sharp sense of contemporary working-class life--but for the Dardennes it's only the starting point of a spiritual and profoundly ethical odyssey."  Go figure.)

"A foolish self-consistency is the hob-goblin of small minds." Emerson

QUOTE
Secondly, Kieslowski himself may have been a critical thinker, a natural doubter, and a playful curmudgeon, but in the documentary I'm So-So, he also refers to his prayer life, and in an interview at Cannes for Red (included on the DVD), he readily embraces the label "metaphysical" and talks about rasing his daughter as a Catholic.

Now that I find fascinating. I know there's always the danger of playing Spot The Christian, but because I believe that what we create bears the image and likeness of its creator, I'm always intrigued to learn that an artist like K has these concrete elements of Christian faith in his life and thought. Hmmm....

Where does one find the "I'm So-So" documentary? Is it on one of the DVDs?

QUOTE
...the films are based on a text that is equally ethical and theological, and I think echoes of both notions inform the series on a pretty deep level....

Very insightful.

QUOTE
The watcher character is a conspicuously mystical oddity in the films that may not be developed to a complex level, but certainly suggests some kind of presence aware of the human plight.

I read someone making a connection between the watcher and the trenchcoat boys in WINGS OF DESIRE. That seems about right.

QUOTE
And The Decalogue is uncommonly sensitive to the human experience of processing moral issues and attempting to physically, emotionally live according to (implied) values in this world.

I'm realizing that for me, the more a film is concerned not only with philosophical brain-games but also with the "What then must we do" aspect of living things out in the world, the more they seem to have to do with the gospel. And they more something has to do with the gospel, the more it seems for me inherently spiritual. (Ron's Rule Of Thumb: the more Jesus paid attention to it, the more it qualifies as "spiritual" in my books.)

QUOTE
Have you seen Blue, Ron?  Did you note that the whole film questions attachment and the notion of love and then culminates with an exultant chorus singing 1st Corinthians chapter 13?  How much more spiritual does it have to be?

I've only seen one of the "Colors" so far, the one with the judge. And yes, I'll readily concede that DEKALOG as well as the other Kieslowskis may very well be laced with things that point to God, and only require close attention - and, pace Rosenbaum, a receptive spirit? (heh heh heh). I'm mostly just fishing to find out what those nuances, details, clues, traces might be here. And people's responses have in fact proven extremely helpful here.

So equipped, it's time to watch Numbers Seven through Ten! See y'all a few Commandments from now....

Ron


#17 Doug C

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 04:54 PM

QUOTE(Ron @ Jul 8 2005, 01:32 PM)
Bresson is all about looking closely at the quotidian realities to see the Something Else that's also lurking around.
Exactly. ("The true is not encrusted in the living persons and real objects you use. It is an air of truth that the images take on when you see them together in a certain order." -Bresson)

QUOTE
Is it not possible that someone with a strongly spiritual orientation in their life/sensibility might have a particular sensitivity to certain aspects of certain films, particularly if those films are being crafted by people similarly inclined?  Is there no Christian analogue to gay-dar?
Available only to those with ears to hear? I agree.

QUOTE
And the second counter-question: hasn't he changed the topic?  To say a film requires religious beliefs in order to be understood is quite a different matter than whether spirituality can be a significant component of film art.
And yet, how could spirituality be a significant component of film art is it's not understood by anybody but believers? How useful would that be? Would it really be a significant component or merely a presupposition?

I think non-believers can and do recognize spiritual truths and even specific theological interpretations (depending on their upbringing or how well-read they are), and the volumnous secular, theological writing on Bresson's works testifies to this. I'm also quite willing to accept that some films work on a spiritual level with meanings that may be undefined but are nevertheless potent, planting seeds that will grow in other ways. And a lot of spiritual wisdom is identified in human terms, which is fine by me, too.

So I guess I'm personally less bothered by the absence of labels, but to suggest that spirituality is a suspect notion, especially in regards to the physicality or materiality of certain works, would be going too far.


QUOTE
What?!?!?!?!?!!!  Is he on drugs?  I can't think of any better example of a director violating the essence of an adapted work, precisely because his worldview is profoundly different than that of the original writer.  Huston's film is fascinating, but he seriously doesn't GET O'Connor.
I thought you'd appreciate that example. smile.gif I'd like to read the book soon so I could compare it to the film myself.


QUOTE
"A foolish self-consistency is the hob-goblin of small minds."  Emerson
Nice. I am intrigued by the inconsistencies. (Come to think of it, I'm increasingly much more interested in how nonbelievers perceive/recognize/describe spirituality and faith issues than I am in believers. It helps me converse on the other side of the conversation.)


QUOTE
Where does one find the "I'm So-So" documentary?  Is it on one of the DVDs?
Nope, just the R2 boxset. We'll add it to your Cummings queue.


QUOTE
I read someone making a connection between the watcher and the trenchcoat boys in WINGS OF DESIRE.  That seems about right.
I could see that.


QUOTE
I'm realizing that for me, the more a film is concerned not only with philosophical brain-games but also with the "What then must we do" aspect of living things out in the world, the more they seem to have to do with the gospel.
I like that. And, in a sense, the artist is communicating from an "agnostic" position more than an overtly "theistic" one. Not that the artist is an agnostic or is promoting agnosticism, but that art often works best through ambiguity rather than proclamation. Only rare films like Ordet make it work. I posted this recently--don't know if you saw it--but it's Kieslowski describing his writing approach to The Decalogue:

"The most important problem still remained--how to adapt the action of each film to illustrate the relevant Commandment. We read everything it was possible to read in libraries; a mass of interpretations of the Commandments, discussions and commentaries on the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. But we decided fairly quickly to dispense with all this. Priests draw upon it every day and we weren't here to preach.  We didn't want to adopt the tone of those who praise or condemn, handing out a reward here for the doing of Good and a punishment there for the doing of Evil. Rather, we wished to say: 'We know no more than you. But maybe it is worth investigating the unknown, if only because the very feeling of not knowing is a painful one.'"

For me, that's a very spiritual endeavor.


QUOTE
So equipped, it's time to watch Numbers Seven through Ten!  See y'all a few Commandments from now....
Ah, so did Six prompt this questioning thread? wink.gif Understandable. (I'd recommend comparing it to the long version, A Short Film About Love, which as you might have ascertained, is substantially different.

Edited by Doug C, 08 July 2005 - 07:16 PM.


#18 gigi

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 08:01 PM

(Aside: I truly appreciate this thread. I know that when I was first reluctantly pulled in to this board, it was with because of the promise of such engagement & forthright discussion amongst its members. I hope to contribute when I'm a little less tired & more sober.)

#19 Darren H

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 08:44 PM

QUOTE
Come to think of it, I'm increasingly much more interested in how nonbelievers perceive/recognize/describe spirituality and faith issues than I am in believers.


I never would have thought to write that sentence, but, man, it resonates strongly with me. I've always been fond of the term "defamiliarization" -- the idea that poetic language is categorically different from everyday, run-of-the-mill language in its ability to make familiar objects strange again. ("Make it new!" Ezra Pound would yell.)

Talking about faith with friends who are agnostics or from completely different religious traditions defamiliarizes, I think, the mysteries and ambiguities of faith. And I wonder how many of us are attracted to the discussions at this here forum -- discussions that are ostensibly about films -- for the same reason. Doug and I have a friend who makes great efforts to live a contemplative life, and I remember her saying that one effect of following the daily disciplines of the Benedictine Order was that the "crusts broke off" of the Gospel. Suddenly those stories and teachings and wisdom that were so familiar to her from years in the church suddenly became new and strange again. I love that image of Kieslowski and Piesiewicz studying Biblical commentaries then deciding, "No, we're not preachers. That is not our job."

#20 Diane

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 04:31 PM

QUOTE(Darren H @ Jul 8 2005, 12:40 PM)
QUOTE(Ron)
That seems to be where Bergman lives. And while I'm quite willing for those folks to agonize in that way, and can be respectful and even compassionate toward them in their grieving, I do wonder whether dwelling on it makes some of them get stuck there.


I would have fought you tooth-and-nail over this a few years ago, but it's occured to me lately (maybe during our discussion of Fanny and Alexander) that I've grown to feel the same way toward Bergman. Cries and Whispers and The Silence are probably my favorite of his films, preceisely because they are such potent and strangely-beautiful depictions of his grief, but I look now at the large collection of Bergman DVDs on my shelf and must admit that I feel no desire to revisit most of them.

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I just have to say that this conversation is fascinating. You are describing what I feel when I watch Bergman—aesthetically pleased, but spiritually troubled. I am becoming more and more torn by his works.