Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reflections on Reflections of Christ

I'm sure many if not all of you have heard of this remarkable photographic achievement of Mark Mabry's. If not, look here. The site is being redesigned, so this link will only work for a limited time.

My brother directed me to a Mormon Times article about this exhibit that got me thinking about what we try to do here. In it, Mabry expresses some interesting thoughts that I think would be good for all LDS artists to consider. Reading it will give you context on what I'm about to say.

I think of chief interest to me in this article is the concept of worthiness that Mabry outlines. He talks about appropriate subject matter. He discusses giving up harmful influences. He talks about singleness of purpose. He says that if he fails to remain faithful in his testimony, his work will lose its power, even though it's already been completed.

I realize that the purpose of Reflections of Christ differs from that of much of LDS art, particularly cinema perhaps. But I still think that the worthiness of the artist has to do with the quality and impact of the art. This must be especially true where the work in question is a testimonial piece. Whatever the intent or scope of our art, however, I imagine we all seek divine assistance. I know I do.

I wonder what this article and this exhibit have to say that we can benefit from.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Iron Man and Lancelot

In the spirit of Benjamin's posts on lessons from cinema, I want to talk about some things I'm learning from the joint venture of watching the recently released DVD of Iron Man and reading T.H. White's The Once and Future King, which is about King Arthur.

Redemption. That's the word (repeated in many reviews you may have read) that convinced me to watch this movie, and I'm glad I did. The way the main character, Tony Stark, goes from careless playboy genius to conscientious superhero genius is both moving and representative of real repentance which, as my little girls say, is "changing to be good." The thing that impresses me the most about it is his total change of heart and aggressive action to correct not a bad social situation like Batman, but the consequences of his wrong choices. Iron man doesn't become, at least in this movie, a vigilante crusader against all things evil. He has a specific mission to remedy the harm he has caused by not caring about the right things.

So where does King Arthur come in? He doesn't. But Lancelot does. In The Once and Future King, White describes Lancelot as a man who does so many good works because of his own dark nature. He enjoys hurting people and is filled with lust and envy. To combat these things, he establishes for himself a rigorous code of conduct that prevents him from acting on any of his base impulses.

These two ideas combined and came to a head in the first scene in Iron Man in which the title character takes action in his new cause. I have rarely had a more powerful experience with film, but I don't think everyone would have the same kind of feeling I did in that moment. To me, it represented a moment of decision, in which past transgressions and the natural man were overcome by the sheer force of will. I was going to say "human will," but that would be wrong. While the decision to repent and change is ours, Stark acknowledges later in the film that he would not be living if not for a higher purpose than his own. He cites his knowledge of this as his motivation for his new life. I think we can learn from that.

LDS FF '09

It's been a while, but that's for good reason. I think many of us are moving into a phase of life right now, whether because of the time of year or the kinds of things we're involved in.

Just to keep the spirit alive here, I wanted to post this announcement for those who may not be aware that the LDS Film Festival has issued a call for entries for 2009. Click the link for guidelines and details.