Sentiment, cynicism, and reality.

CT Movies recently re-posted an interesting article on Schindler’s List (1993), Holocaust movies in general, and the challenges posed by evil and goodness. The article, by Marc LiVecche, is worth reading in full, but two sentences leapt out at me:

Denis Haack has previously written in Comment that there are two ways to avoid reality: sentimentalism and cynicism. The resistance to Schindler’s List is, I fear, a result of the cynical view that wants to downplay goodness.

If it were almost any other Spielberg movie under discussion, I would suggest that people might be resisting it because the movie itself exemplifies the sentimentalist way of avoiding reality. And indeed, if memory serves, there are a few moments here and there, even in Schindler’s List, that have been criticized for their perceived sentimentality, at least by some people.

This raises an interesting question: What if one is being cynical about someone else’s sentimentality? What if both the artist and the critic are avoiding reality, but in different ways? What if neither of them is facing reality as it is, and they are both simply haggling over the best way to avoid it? Do the two approaches cancel each other out? Do they reinforce one another?

How do we resist sentimentalism without being “cynical”?

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).