(I'll be including some links in this post, but follow them with care if you think there's a chance you'll want to watch the movies, as they contain spoilers.)

Our church periodically holds "communication" classes, mostly designed for couples, although the tools and techniques we discuss are applicable for all relationships, so I wish it was more widely advertised.  Be that as it may, most of us find ourselves signing up again and again, not so much for the content as for an excuse and a framework for spending time together.

In the most recent incarnation of the class, we began with watching the movie, Fireproof, and are working our way through The Love Dare book, which is featured in the movie.  Although it has some good points, I can't say as I've found the book all that useful, but the movie was great.  It was so enjoyable we hastened to put the company's previous film, Facing the Giants, high on our Netflix queue.  While not quite as well-made as Fireproof, it is still excellent—take note that I thoroughly enjoyed watching a movie about football!

Why did I like the movie?  First of all, it must be admitted, because it wasn't as bad as I had expected.  I've seen my share of church-produced films and low-budget, Sunday school fare, and most of them are so poorly made they're embarrassing.  As the film progressed, however, I grudgingly moved from "not so bad" to "riveting, gripping, and amazing."  No, it's not perfect, and neither is Facing the Giants, and there are one or two awkwardly-done "preachy" moments.  But overall, both are believable, delightful stories.  It's true that events and changes happen more quickly and easily than in real life, but this is a common dramatic device and requires no more of a willing suspension of disbelief than most movie and television fare.  And unlike most movie and television fare, the characters are recognizable, more like people I know than the characters I usually see on the screen.

Movie critics, and no doubt many veteran movie-watchers, will fault these films for their positive attitudes.  "Unrealistic," they would say.  This pervasive, modern viewpoint was described (and decried) well enough over 50 years ago by C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters; here one tempter is explaining to another how to use it to his advantage:

The general rule which we have now pretty well established among them is that in all experiences which can make them happier or better only the physical facts are "real," while the spiritual elements are "subjective"; in all experiences which can discourage or corrupt them the spiritual elements are the main reality, and to ignore them is to be an escapist.  Thus in birth the blood and pain are "real," the rejoicing a mere subjective point of view; in death, the terror and ugliness reveal what death "really means."  The hatefulness of a hated person is "real"—in hatred you see men as they are, you are disillusioned; but the loveliness of a loved person is merely a subjective haze concealing a "real" core of sexual appetite or economic association.  Wars and poverty are "really" horrible; peace and plenty are mere physical facts about which men happen to have certain sentiments….Your patient, properly handled, will have no difficulty in regarding his emotion at the sight of human entrails as a revelation of reality and his emotion at the sight of happy children or fair weather as mere sentiment.

What is truly unbelievable is how these movies were made.  Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who between the two of them cover the writer, producer, director, and some of the actor positions, are pastors at a Baptist Church in Georgia.  The instrumental scores were written by the church's music director.  While there were a few professionals involved, nearly all the work—including most of the acting roles—was done by church volunteers.  The budget for Facing the Giants (2006) was only $100,000, and for Fireproof (2008) $500,000.  For comparison, The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had a U.S. budget of $180 million, Star Wars Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith (2005) $113 million, Gone with the Wind (1939) 3.9 million. Granted, Facing the Giants is nowhere near Revenge of the Sith in quality, nor does it pretend to be—but on the other hand the latter is nowhere near 1000 times better.  I'm not knocking the value of professionals, but I am blown away by what can be accomplished by volunteers.  It was that good.

The experience reminds me of my reaction to Alex and Brett Harris's Do Hard Things.  Surely we expect too little of ourselves.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 8:44 am | Edit
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Just wanted to let you know that the Kendrick brothers have a new movie entering production called "Courageous".

Here is the plot (from wikipedia):
Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. As law enforcement officers, they face danger every day. Yet when tragedy strikes close to home, these fathers are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, and their faith. From this struggle will come a decision that changes all of their lives.



Posted by dstb on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Thanks! I'm looking forward to when Netflix has it.



Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, November 23, 2009 at 5:09 am
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