Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Based on a True Story"

I went to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose last night. Aside from the fact that the movie is just a dressed up, 2 hour long, Law and Order episode, I just couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy the story. See, the problem is, this is one of those "based on a true story" movies which basically means that the film maker doesn't want suspended disbelief, he expects you to actually buy what is happening in the movie. Now I'm all for a good monster flick. I'm happy to sit through a demonic possession/battle for good and evil film and be scared and on the edge of my seat. As long as I'm allowed to say in the back of my mind, "this is fiction - of course this doesn't happen in real life." Because if I'm expected to actually believe any of it, then I'm gonna spend all my time picking holes in the story, and analyzing why it doesn't make any sense. And as a "true account," Emily Rose's story makes no sense.

I actually do believe in "angels" and "demons." That is to say, I believe that there are beings who exist on something other than the material plane - call it the spiritual realm if you like, that is just a matter of semantics. But I simply don't believe that there is evidence to suggest that those beings regularly manifest themselves in our physical realm. I'm not saying I don't think it ever happens. I just think it is extraordinarily rare, and I believe that when it happens, it happens for a reason. Emily Rose's possession appears to be completely random. The "demons" don't seem to have any reason to possess her other than to scare her silly and waste away to nothing until she dies. Why in the world would superintelligent spirit beings want to do such a thing - even if they are evil demons? It makes no sense.

The film really digs a hole for the story when it goes further and attempts to bring in the Virgin Mary and provide a rationale for why "God" would allow Emily to be possessed. The film suggests the "Job Syndrome." In the Bible book of Job, God allows the devil to torment Job, a faithful, god-fearing man, to demonstrate that the truly faithful cannot be broken. This line of argument leads to all kinds of contradictions. The most significant problem with it in the case of the story of Emily Rose is that it requires us to believe that the "demons" are doing God's work while at the same time being his enemies. Apparently Emily's possession is going to bring about a spiritual reawakening by making people aware of the fact that angels and demons really do exist. So aren't the demons happy that so many people have turned away from a spiritual path - isn't that their goal? Why would they want to attract more believers to God? Utter nonsense.

Want a fascinating and intelligent treatment (albeit fictional) of the battle in the spiritual realm and a conception of its manifestation in our plane? Read the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman. Written under the guise of "young adult" fiction, this is a really well developed exploration of a theory I've had for quite sometime. I still can't believe he got away with marketing these books to kids. The ultimate message is sophisticated and radical.


At 2:50 PM, Blogger garfer said...

Pullman was heavily influenced by Milton's 'Paradise Lost'. The view he is espousing is radical; but you don't get that when you're ten.
C Lewis's 'Narnia' series was explicitly Christian, but I wasn't aware of that when I read the books as a child.

At 4:39 AM, Blogger Faltanus said...

You're right about the Narnia series, because the religious stuff is dressed up heavily in symbolism. But the reader can't miss it in "The Amber Spyglass." It is obvious that the story is about war against God, and the cause is presented as a righteous one! God is portayed as befuddled and completely senile - sort of hard to miss.

I guess what really amazes me is that the religious right in this country hasn't been vocal and come out screaming about these books like they have about Harry Potter. I know the Potter books are MUCH more widely read, but the message in Pullman's books is much more subversive.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Herge Smith said...

Ohhh Garfer, you'll love this one - apparently the movie version of His Dark Materials (currently in production) will have the religious aspect removed.


C S Lewis went to school in the town I live. Boring yes, but what the hell.

I prefer HDM to Naria... you know, if I had to choose between the two in some hyper unlikely choosing session...

At 4:50 AM, Blogger Faltanus said...

i'm not surprised that they are pulling the religious stuff - it would be a lot harder to fly that under the radar in a film.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger garfer said...

Yeah faltunus, I take your point.


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