This week I’ve been looking for movies where a person or group stands on principle. Here are three which Sam and I have watched this week from our collection – all mesmerizing and nourishing in different ways.
- Chariots of Fire (1981) – “God made me fast! When I run I feel his pleasure.” Thus Eric Liddell, the son of Scottish Presbyterian missionaries, explains why he delays going back to China so he can run in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Much of the film’s drama comes from Liddell’s refusal to run on Sunday, holding firm even in a meeting with the Prince of Wales. The solution: find him a race that will run on a weekday, even if it’s not his “best” race. While Liddell runs for the glory of God, the film also features Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who is running to fight prejudice. Both of them win gold medals.
- Of Gods and Men/Des hommes et des dieux 2010) – We first saw this amazing film (in French and Arabic with English subtitles) at the Princess Original art theatre in Waterloo during Lent 2011.It’s loosely based on the story of eight Trappist monks from France living among the Muslim population in Algeria. Luc, one of the monks, is the village doctor. When the country is plunged into civil war in the 1990’s and the monastery is threatened, the monks have to decide whether to stay or to go back to France.The film is patient and restrained – in other words, the beginning is slow! – setting up the ordinary lives of the monks and the interactions of each with the villagers. But it’s also mesmerizing. The two discernment scenes especially stand out for me: 1) a tortured meeting which elicits a difference of opinion on whether to leave or stay and 2) the meeting at which the monks unanimously decide to stay, and their euphoric response upon making this decision.Brother Christian, the group’s leader says, “We’re martyrs out of love, out of fidelity. If death overtakes us, despite ourselves – because up to the end we’ll try to avoid it – our mission here is to be brothers to all.”
The monastery is eventually raided by terrorists, and all but one of the monks is captured (he hides under a bed). The film ends with a forced march in the snow.
Of Gods and Men resonates with quiet power, and leaves viewers with much to think about long after seeing it.
- The Chosen (1981), based on the novel by Chaim Potok. In this coming-of-age story, Danny and Reuven meet as teenagers in an unforgettable stickball game which opens the movie.Danny Saunders resists strong pressure by his father the Rebbe to remain in the Hasidic Jewish community in New York and take over hereditary leadership from his father. He becomes good friends with Reuven, from a Zionist family, whose father is working to form the secular state of Israel.Danny’s struggle to go his own direction vocationally while respecting his father plays out in strange and wondrous ways.
Questions for Reflection:
- Which films have you seen in which the characters stuck to their ethical and spiritual principles in a compelling way?
- If you’ve seen any of these three films, whose struggle mesmerized you the most? Why?
Next week: TBA