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MOVIES: Are you cheating yourself?

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — In this age of sci-fi action films, your soul is missing out if the only movies you’re watching are those found in today’s cineplexes.

Each director, it seems, has to trump the latest special effects. The resulting productions typically contain anti-biblical messages, one-sided political agendas and politically correct leanings that disregard Testament truths.

The best special effects are not found in computer-generated imagery, but in the story, characters and performances. The most endearing films can, like biblical parables, nourish the spirit rather than just throttle the nervous system. A defining moment in a character’s life may well outlast special effects wizardry.

To discover the things that will feed your soul as well as entertain, allow me to escort you back in time.

Moviemakers used to tell stories without sound. Pioneering filmmakers said it all with imagery. More was said with one look than with a thousand words. Examples.

City Lights (1931)

Charlie Chaplin’s eloquent masterpiece, about a man who finds satisfaction by caring for others, was both funny and melancholic. With an incredible ending, it caused moviegoers of the day to laugh and cry, and reminded them of the truest special effect — love.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

Rudolph Valentino starred in this epic spectacle about cousins on either side of World War I. This film proves that impressive imagery and the magic of great storytelling touch something deep inside us and far outlast technical gimmickry.

The world and Hollywood have moved on, but after all these years, award–winning films still use visuals to reveal how much we have in common with folks who came before us.

The Artist (2011)

This fantasy brought back the strengths and imagination of the 1920s silent era, reminding moviegoers of the potency of cinematic imagery. At one point in the story, a person in the depths of depression considers suicide. His dog intervenes; that’s right, his dog. The image of that animal tugging on the pant leg of his despondent master brought a tear to the eye of even the most hardened of cynics. And a moviemaker proved yet again that story and imagery are the necessary foundations for any great film.

Congratulations, you’ve just ventured into a world seldom visited by today’s moviegoers. Are you willing to go even further into a cinematic unknown? If so, how about renting a foreign film? You could garner a whole new appreciation for film because in a way, you’ll be part of the adventure. You can’t just sit there and let the actors do all the work; you’ll have to invest more of yourself. Unless you speak the language, you’ll have to read subtitles!

I know, many dread subtitles; no one more than I. But one of the magic elements found in a memorable foreign film is the realization that you’ll suddenly forget you’re reading the dialogue. Examples:

Beauty and the Beast (1946)

In order to save her father, a beautiful girl agrees to live with a feared wolf-like beast. Time passes and they learn to love one another. This moody, atmospheric rendition of the classic fairy tale is a beguiling and fanciful masterpiece. When’s the last time you saw a beguiling and fanciful masterpiece?

Together (2002)

This Chinese film concerns a widowed father who sacrifices everything in order to support his teenage son’s gifted musical abilities. The son doesn’t see the sacrifices made on his behalf until the end. Beautifully filmed in the “Forbidden City” of China, “Together” is full of humor, drama and insight. It’s a powerful parable every parent and teen should see. (There are other movies with the same title. This is from China and rated PG.)

As we’ve mostly abandoned silent films, dialogue in itself can serve as a powerful, lasting special effect. Consider this succinct warning to moviegoers, taken from the film, “I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing”: “Your head is like a gas tank. You have to be really careful about what you put in it, because it might just affect the whole system.”
In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org and is a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright