I happened to be spending a few minutes seeing how the Voyage of the Dawn Treader was doing at the box office and I stumbled across a list of films that were deemed Christian films by the website box office mojo which gives you lists of films and how “successful” they have been.
Amusingly, they have been saying what a flop that the third movie in the Narnia series has been with headlines such as “Dawn Treader sinks” and “Dawn Treader crashes” with them saying that it was doing far worse than the previous film, Prince Caspian. Then they tuck away in a paragraph the line:
With a $242.9 million overseas total and its Japanese debut yet to come, Prince Caspian‘s $278 million final total seems well within Dawn Treader‘s grasp
Now I don’t really mind one way or the other and maybe I was in one of those bemused moods on Sunday night(what with the previous blog posting about zodiac signs)
But what really caught my eye was that Voyage of the Dawn Treader was seen as the 4th highest grossing Christian film of all time. What??????
So, I went to the list.
No. 1 The Passion of the Christ
Then 2,3 & 4 were the three Narnia films.
Now if we allow the three Narnia films to be specifically Christian films then what about Lord of the Rings???? You only need to read the back plot the Lord of the Rings (the Silmarilon) to get the idea or know that Tolkein wrote it as implicitly religious. Indeed he said of it:
“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”
Indeed I don’t recognise many of the works on the list – indeed at number 75 is the “immortal” work “The River within” which grossed a massive $9,811 at the cinema.
But then you look at the list and you see Pride and Prejudice (2003) which, I believe, is a take on Jane Austen’s work (having looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes - a great site if you haven’t come across it) and the Celestine Prophecy (which is definitely not a Christian film). They have missed out A Walk to Remember (which would come in at number 4 in their chart). There is even a case for The Matrix with its Christian imagery.
So maybe what the list is saying is that these are the works that make them feel uncomfortable. That don’t have anywhere else that they want to put them. The bin of films.
But put it the other way. It seems to me that this classification of Christian film is far too limited. There are no doubt some films, such as the BBC’s Nativity, which are obviously Christian. But that still shouldn’t be sufficient for us who are Christian. We want good drama. We want well written, well acted, well directed films.
The BBC’s Nativity is also good drama and has an appeal beyond a group wanting to feel good about their faith. Good drama challenges and makes one re-think things and see things in new ways. That’s what Christ did. But just as its easy to create a saccharine Christ its also easy to create saccharine Christian art. Rather I would prefer to see great art informed by the artists faith, even when I might disagree with it.
So fellow travellers. What has been a film that you felt informed your faith. And if you aren’t a person of faith what film represented faith best for you? And why?