Going to the Movies

“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of the mind.” the DHAMMAPADA

This summer, I decided to use contemporary movies as the “texts” for the worship services at my congregation. Partly, this was because I hadn’t been to any movies for several months and this gave me an excuse to go to the movies in these hot summer months. But more than that it is because of the importance of stories, and movies are our contemporary shared stories.

Since humans have had consciousness and language, we have been telling stories. We all have stories; in some ways, we are stories. They are our memories; they are our dreams. Stories are how we share what is important and meaningful to us. They are how we tell each other who we are. Indeed, stories are how we tell ourselves who we are.

Some stories intrigue or entertain us and other stories distress or bore us. The first human stories were told, heard, remembered and re-told. Then the stories were written and collected. Some of those stories became sacred through re-telling. They gave communities identity and meaning. The stories explained the world, life and death. Some of those story collections came to be called scriptures which is a word that means writings. People still think about and learn from these old stories. We still tell, remember, write and read stories. But now a primary way of telling and receiving stories is through television and movies. We think about, talk about and learn from what we watch as well as what we hear. Film can be powerful and emotional. So, I decided this summer to talk about current movies, to see what we can learn from these films. What are the messages in these contemporary stories?

Of course, there can be many messages even in one movie, and as we watch a film, our own experience influences the message we receive. One theme that I experienced in the three movies that I have seen so far may well be part of every movie. The movies are The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Kid With A Bike and The Intouchables. In many ways, these are three quite different films, but all three show how we are transformed in relationships, especially in caring relationships. The movies’ stories are about love, courage and transformation, and because they are stories about life, they are also stories about loss and acceptance.

Authentic, open hearted and mutual relationships allow us to accept our sorrows and our joys and to become more of our own true selves. Even brief encounters if honest and open to the other can change us, and movies, too, have the potential to change us. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the brothers who made The Kid With A Bike, said of their films, “The moral imagination or the capacity to put oneself in the place of another. That’s a little bit of what our films demand of the spectator.” When we are our best selves, that “capacity to put oneself in the place of another” is the gift we give each other.

May your stories be heard and may you be open to others’ stories.

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