The Guardian has picked up on the news that Rich Swingle is writing a sequel to Chariots of Fire (1981) — and the article claims that Swingle’s film will be called With Wings as Eagles, rather than Beyond the Chariots, which was the title of his one-man play.
This is interesting, because Ken Wales has talked about making his own sequel to Chariots called With Wings as Eagles. Wales is never mentioned in this article, so either Swingle has teamed up with Wales and the Guardian neglected to mention this, or there are two rival sequels in development using the same title.
The Guardian says Sue Pottle — the daughter of Harold Abrahams, the Jewish runner played by Ben Cross in the original film — is concerned the new film will overplay the religious angle. And this has Jeffrey Overstreet at the Looking Closer Journal concerned that the Guardian itself may be overplaying the religious angle in order to dismiss the movie before it has even been made.
I hate to quibble with Jeff’s post — especially since I agree that the secular media tends to get a bit paranoid whenever evangelical faith enters the picture — but a few points come to mind.
First, the title “Chariots of Fire” was probably derived not from the Bible, not directly, but from William Blake’s poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time‘, which formed the basis for ‘Jerusalem’, a hymn that is performed in the film and on the soundtrack album.
Second, it does not seem that the Guardian was “picking through the details of Rich Swingle’s life looking for something horribly suspicious.” Instead, the story states: “Swingle’s CV shows religion is a central theme in his work.” Looking to an artist’s past work for a sense of what his future work might be like seems fair, to me.
Third, Jeff claims that the original film “did not favor the Scottish Christian’s view over the English Jew’s view.” However, critics such as Margaret R. Miles have argued otherwise.
Finally, it does not seem so odd to me that the Guardian would describe Swingle as a “committed Christian”. The term is often used by self-professed “committed Christians” to distinguish themselves and others from “nominal Christians” and others who are not so, well, committed. If “we” can say it, why not the Guardian?
Besides, writers do sometimes critique the “committed” members of other faiths for making movies that reflect their beliefs.
Just look at the Amazon.com review of Red Corner (1997): “Using a faulty thriller for his soapbox as an outspoken critic of China, a devout follower of the Dalai Lama, and an influential supporter of Tibetan freedom, Richard Gere resorts to the equivalent of propagandistic drama to deliver a heavy-handed message. . . .”
And does not Dead Man Walking (1995) derive at least some of its power from the fact that we know Tim Robbins et al. are firm opponents of the death penalty, yet they made a movie that is more fair-minded than we might have had reason to expect?