During Easter of 2010, I spent the morning with a few close friends discussing the theme of the day. After we were finished with the more intellectual side of things, we viewed selected segments from a few movies to see the Death and Resurrection theme in action, either literally or figuratively.
We first watched some scenes from Whale Rider, where the grandfather does not want to acknowledge that the little girl (Pai) is the one destined to be chief. Finally, after Pai dives into the water to retrieve a whale bone (the boy who would have retrieved it earlier was to be chief, but no boy found it), she also helps a beached whale get back to sea. The whale was apparently responding to Pai, to the fact that Pai is the chosen one. But Pai goes into the deep with the whale, and is retrieved, hospitalized, and finally acknowledged as the future chief. A touching and beautiful story!
Next, we watched Powder, an incredible movie all around. Powder was born the night his mother was struck by lightning and died. Needless to say, Powder was unusual, highly intelligent, and electromagnetic. In many ways, this is a secular story of the Christ.
Then we watched some scenes from the very-moving Jesus of Nazareth, where Robert Powell played Jesus. We were most interested in the scene where Jesus went to dinner at the house of Matthew (the tax collector). Simon-Peter watches from the door as Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son, about the son who died spiritually and was re-born by his return to his father.
This Death and Resurrection theme is common in many movies, such as Pow Wow Highway, and Smoke Signals, and Robert Redford’s The Clearing. The Clearing is a fascinating study of the complexities of personality, but I found the final line the best: If you love me, then I have everything I need. It was beautiful, compelling, thoughtful. To understand that phrase was to understand the meaning of life, and the how the death is a necessary part of rebirth, whether we are speaking spiritually, literally, or figuratively.
Movies can be great teachers of life-lessons, if we choose the movies carefully, and if we actively seek out the lessons within.
By the way, we often view movies this way at Holy Days and holidays at the WTI commemorations in Highland Park. If you live nearby, please join us. Check the schedule on this web site, or contact me.