Friday, September 24, 2010

Movie Bible Study: The Sacrifice

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and 
the Word was God. 
John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word… why is that, Papa?
            The Sacrifice

A young son’s words at the end of Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice are hard to decipher, but reflect a well-choreographed ballad between Father and Son and essence and material.  Tarkovsky’s world bears much resemblance to our own.  People exist, things exist, art exist, and so does evil.  Evil bears with it calamity of all sorts, including all the many plebian inconveniences and accidents of life.  

This world, 
as depicted
           by Andrei Tarkovsky, 
           is visually splendid, 
                     as it reflects the omnipotent artistry 
                                                                      of its Creator, 
                     but narratively murky, 
                                as it’s characters have imbibed themselves 
                                                   with sinful reasoning.

Jesus is the Word, and the Word is God.  Before the foundations of the world, this was so.  The Sacrifice paints a lens in which the created material world is made to give way to, to bow down before,  that immense awe-full presence of the Divine Origin. 

The narrative set-up is this: a man, upon hearing the news that the end of the world is coming by means of a global war, prays to God that God would save the man's family, specifically his son.  As a form of payment for this mercy, our protagonist promises that he’ll give up his family.  He'll release them from himself.  What does this mean?  We, the audience, are kept in the dark until the final scene as to how this man will practically fulfill his promise.  

The morning after the solemn prayer, sure enough, mercy has been bestowed.  The global war has been eradicated.  The family is saved.  Most importantly, the son is saved.  Now we must watch this man rid himself of his family.  What follows is an observation of a process of extraction.   

By journey's end we've been made witness to a means of salvation.  We are shown a deep allegory of the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  We feel the cost of God's grace.  Jesus paid a wretched price for us.

I and the Father are One.
John 10:30

The Sacrifice can certainly be viewed as a form of horror film.   

A monstrous thing occurs in the form of apocalyptic war.  We watch solemnly the response of people to this dreadful news.  If you were told the world was ending today, how would you respond?  

Tarkovsky's people are instantly drawn to the very precipice of insanity. Fear and regret march prominently in their spirits as the trumpet sounds.  They all speak of regrets; they are not living the lives they should have lived.  Now they mourn death for ridding them of the ability to change it all.  With no future left, all that remains is the past; the regretful past. The sacrifice, in the end, frees everyone not so much from the physical act of death, but rather, delivers them from a mental and emotional hell.   

Those saved have become free to re-craft their lives the way they now desire.  

Besides the obvious salvific allegory that Tarkovsky animates, he is also casting a scornful eye on our reliance on the stuff of life.  Often did Jesus talk about the possessions of this life being a stumbling block to salvation.  Tarkovsky insinuates in his film that everything, from material possessions to inter-relationships, all of it; it all separates us from the great Unmoved One.  Read John chapter one.  It is timeless.  God is the Word.  God is Light.  And God is Jesus Christ.  The whole history of life is chiseled down to this simple story.  Our eyes should stay ever focused on the Divine.

Tarkovsky leads us to the conviction that just by being in the world we are training our souls to focus on the materials of this world, rather than the stuff of God.  Has he a point?  Is the rhythm of our lives slowly seeping us into perilous customs of sin?  Is the mystery of God’s transcendence hidden somewhere deep between the mildew of the matter of this earth?  Dwell on this: what creates a wedge between you and perfect faith?

Let us remain diligent to seek God in silence and space.  Have you not yet found sufficient proof that all things can be addicted?  All things can be perverted.  This is our disease; we twist goodness into silly blather.  We take in the beauty of the world and shit it out, a bastard deconstruction of God made it.  The world was made good, so we should not simply become Luddites and Ascetics.  Rather, let us be diligent to seek the Word above all else, and let all us come then to the table of the world, seeing it only as a refraction of that good Light.

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’"
Exodus 3:14

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."
John 8:58

How glorious it is that our God is the Word.  He is Truth, and we are made in His image.  He is the Word, yet no words can describe Him justly.  Perhaps John introduced the Son in His gospel by calling Him the Word because by doing so, John illustrates how indefinable God is.  As soon as one tries, you use Words to do so.  So you’ve already undone your progress by trying to define Him by using Himself.  
How great is Our God that He bears us in His likeness, yet we cannot begin to fathom His being.  How great is He that He is in the breath of all that begins to describe Him.  Praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit today for being as big as He is, and yet still He chooses to dwell with us.  My Emmanuel, thank you.

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