We are in the middle of a renaissance. And none of us realizes it.
What is a renaissance? According to Dictionary.com, it’s a “revival in the world of art and learning.” It is this definition that I am riffing on, particularly that word “revival”. I believe that God is infiltrating our art, our thought, and our entertainment. A bold statement, I know, but hear me out. (You can always give me your thoughts in the comments. =)
Note: I am going to try to avoid spoilers here. However, be aware that I might inadvertently say something that could completely wreck one of these films for you. Be warned. I don’t think it ruins anything, though, to say that in the case of at least three of these movies the ship sinks.
“Noah” was recently released in theaters. Many, including myself, have debated the merits or failings of this movie ad nauseam, and I do not intend to use up my space here doing so. (Though, for the record, I very much enjoyed it.) What I would like to point out instead is a rather astonishing, almost miraculous fact: “Noah” exists. What is even more incredible: it’s not alone. “Heaven is for Real” also released recently. I have not seen this movie, but it is at the very least supposed to be well done. These two will also be joined at the end of the year by Ridley Scott’s “Exodus.” But that’s not even scratching the surface.
“Gravity” was one of the top contenders for 2013’s “Film of the Year”, and it did win the 2014 Oscar for Best Director. It is an astonishing movie, and I highly recommend you see it. However, what most interests me is the development of Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan Stone. Ryan starts off very clinical and aloof, and for good reason. But she also begins to thaw. And as she does, she begins to wonder: is there a God? Is there a Heaven? As the movie progresses, she seems to become more and more convinced that there is, and that she will shortly meet her loved ones there. At one point in the film she is miraculously saved (by her imagination? Or an angel?), and I hope it is not giving away too much to say that the movie ends with a prayer. (I’m not saying that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney live or that they die, I’m just saying the movie ends with a prayer. =)
“Les Miserables” was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 2013. It is a beautiful, moving film. And it is about a man who is radically converted to Christianity, spends the rest of his life trying to mirror the love of Christ to the downtrodden, and finally is told near the end that “to love another person is to see the face of God.” I also find it to be an amazing case study of grace and mercy versus judgment and dogma.
“The Life of Pi” was also nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 2013. It is a tragic story, but also a story of unwavering hope. The movie is gorgeous and awe-inspiring. And it is, before anything else, a movie about finding and choosing God. When one character is asked to choose between wonder and sterile emptiness, he chooses wonder. The hero, Pi, then smiles and says, “And so it goes with God.”
“The Conjuring” was released in 2013, and was largely considered one of the scariest, most intense films of the year. It is also a movie about the power of God warring against dark, pervasive forces of evil. The movie even ends with this quote: “The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”
These were all considered some of the best releases in their genres. They all came out within the last year or two. And they all ask people to think about the reality of something — Someone — greater than them.
I believe God is becoming fashionable again to discuss and wrestle with and wonder about, both in film and in art. This is something that excites me to no end. I honestly don’t care whether or not everyone agrees with every point these films try to make. For the first time in a while, people are feeling comfortable talking about God and embracing their curiosity. What else can that be called but the rustlings of revival?
If you’d like to check out any of these films I’ve provided links to them on Amazon. They usually have the best prices, but some of these also might be available on streaming services now. Obviously I highly recommending watching all of them.
What movies did I miss? Do you agree with me that God is at work in the entertainment industry? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.