After all I wrote about Yeelen, I have been thinking about miracles, and a Mormon portrayal of them.
There are a few specific things on my mind. 1. That transcendence in film is a different discussion from the portrayal of miracles in film. The two may very well be linked and overlapping, but to assume that one is the other deprives us of clarity and opportunity. 2. That Godard has said that Dreyer and Hitchcock are the only two directors who knew how to frame a miracle. My feelings about this notion are both surprise and humility. 3. That miracles and an understanding of them is integral to a Mormon world view.
However representing miracles on screen, as Godard, the world's premiere cinephile, notes, virtually everyone has gotten it wrong. I might say that there are a few exceptions to his Hitchcock/Dreyer standard, but not many. Souleymane Cisse, director of Yeelen, might very well be one of them. Though his miracles are based in magic rather than Christianity, they seem to me more pure than any LDS-specific, or American for that matter, film that I know of. Perhaps then LDS film should not only not be looking to Spielberg or Pirates of the Carribbean, but to Dreyer or Hitchcock either. At least sometimes.
I desperately think we need to make stories that focus on miracles but do so in a pure way. As I've thought about this, the first story that comes to my mind is Helaman Chapter 5. But to my mind, no amount of special effects can do justice to the sacredness of the visitations, the circle of fire, and the crumbling jail contained in that chapter. So perhaps the model should be straight from Georges Méliès all the way to Souleymane Cisse. Méliès was one of the very first filmmakers, but he was a magician by trade. He started making films to add to his "magic shows." His Trip to the Moon was remade into the Smashing Pumpkins video for "Tonight, Tonight," for those of you familiar with it. But to a modern eye, the kind of in-house special effects came mostly from camera trickery can only be cause for delight rather than to convince. But as Yeelen teaches us, when founded upon innocence and purity, a sincerity comes through that transcends devotion. And so here is my clarion call: for LDS producers, distributors, and financiers, as well as filmmakers, to rally around a production of Helaman 5, with Méliès and Yeelen providing a genealogical framework of innocence.
The goal (much to the production's financial benefit) would be to be as digital perfection as possible, to rely on, for lack of a better word, "tribal," "primitive" non-actors, and mythical (in opposition to mystical) storytelling. Such an exciting, homespun brand of special effects would be delightful to "family-films" audiences, as well as being more capable of expressing devotion than any forms LDS filmmakers are currently engaged in. Again, anyone interested? Please contact me s soon as possible at towardanldscinema AT gmail DOT com. Or do it and don't tell me about it. If there's anyone who wants to and can make this film, please feel free to do so without my involvement. However, I of course would be more than willing. Let's hope we see the film get made.