This post is by Michael O’Neil, a friend of mine who teaches at Vose Seminary in Perth, Australia. Michael, a theologian, offers some reflections on a move, The Life of David Gale.
A few days ago my wife and I watched Alan Parker’s 2003 movie The Life of David Gale. It’s what we call a ‘gritty film:’ the kind of movie that is emotionally wrenching or confronting because of its subject matter, or its treatment of the subject matter, often both. It’s the kind of movie that raises harsh questions and/or confronts us with brutal visions of reality. Sometimes we like the movie—even when we feel like we’ve been run over by a truck (think Revolutionary Road or maybe Children of Men), sometimes we hate it (think Precious, though maybe we just wanted something light-hearted or inspirational that night), and sometimes, like now, I’m ambivalent.
I also came away with another question: What makes a movie suitable for Christian viewing, teaching or analogy? In Australia we are far removed from Texan death-sentence-politics, but the issue still raises critical questions for Christian reflection, discussion and action. Some people would reject the movie immediately, on account of its rating, disturbing imagery, nudity and language. Others use different criteria to assess the validity or usefulness of a movie for Christian viewing or teaching. What criteria do you use?