Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy week at the movies: Serenity on Tuesday

The fact that popular media culture is an imaginative palette for faith … the church has to take that imaginative palette seriously… if part of the pastoral task of the church is to communicate God’s mercy and God’s freedom in a way that people understand then you have to use the language that they’re using, you have to use the metaphors and forms of experience that are already familiar to them. Tom Beaudoin

The movie Serenity, directed by Joss Whedon, was released in 2005. It received generally positive reviews and opened at number two in the US box office and gaining a domestic box office gross of $25.5 million and a foreign box office gross of $13.3 million. Serenity won film of the year awards from Film 2005 and FilmFocus. It also won IGN Film’s Best Sci-Fi, Best Story and Best Trailer awards and was runner up for the Overall Best Movie.

The movie begins with the dramatic rescue of the imprisoned teenager River. She has mysterious origins, a past that has left her a tortured soul (a suffering servant). She exists in conflict with authority pursued by her former captors, the all-powerful Alliance. As a scapegoat, pursued by her former captors she is sheltered aboard a wilderness place, on board the renegade space ship, aptly named Serenity. She is performer of wonders, a woman in possession of intuitive powers of perception and superb fighting skills. As the movie reaches it’s climax, she chooses to enter her passion, offering her life to spare the crew of Serenity. Thought dead, she in fact experiences a metaphorical resurrection. The movie ends with River as the new co-pilot of Serenity, blasting into space, noting the first rule of flying “love keeps her in the air. love makes your ship a home.”

A theological gaze would note the development of River as a character. As she finds herself, drawn out by the love of her brother, Simon, she grows into a saviour. Her facing of her frightening mix of psychic and fighting powers parallels the gospel accounts of the Garden of Gethsemane in which Christ as a tortured soul seeks to discern his true identity.

Theologically, River gives her life for others. Firstly for her crew. In the climatic battle scene, River offers her life, retrieving the doctors medical bag to ensure his healing, then closing off a bulkhead door to seal the crew from the attacking Rivers.

Secondly River gives her life for truth. The crew of the ship Serenity have discovered that the Alliance have conducted a scientific experiment that has murdered millions. River discerns the pain and cries out that “somebody has to speak for these people.” A crew member quotes the advice of Shepherd Book, the religious figure in the movie: “If you can’t do something smart, do something right.” They crew of Serenity are thus on a mission to broadcast this truth through the universe, naming the Alliance’s evil. River’s act is part of unmasking the evil of the body corporate.

A closer theological reading would note the Biblical phrase, “It is finished,” during River’s “resurrection” scene.

Theologically, in Serenity, River is thus a form of Christus Victor, absorbing the evil of the world. Her tortured body undergoes a form of healing. River saves her body and the body of her crew. In the process she destroys the Reavers: who are “all made up of rage.” In her body she embodies intuition, emotional empathy and extraordinary feminine strength. Thus as a Christic-figure, she embodies a new way of saving the body.

Mark 14:3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Posted by steve at 01:33 PM

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