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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Monday, 28 September 2009

Girl there's a better life ...

Inspired by an old college friend's post over at Holy Brit, I went online recently and bought the DVD of City of Ember. My kids loved it and it also appealed to me.


Not just because it's a Walden media film, but mostly because it belongs in that particularly helpful film genre of post-apocalyptic fantasy. I think this is a helpful kind of film because it engenders thought about the following (in no particular order); the end of the world (which you can take theologically, ecologically, politically or all three), how to escape from captivity and helplessness, themes of redemption, the rediscovery of ancient wisdom, the possibility that there is another way of living or another world in which we can live .... you can see where I'm going with this.

City of Ember doesn't have a particularly strong plot (there are a couple of holes which I attributed to post production cutting) but for me a great element of the story was the contrast between the kids who decided to try to escape a doomed underground city, and the people who preferred to stand around singing on "the great day of singing", trusting that "the builders will return".

I'm not saying we earn our salvation, I'm just saying there is more to life and faith than standing round singing; we have to (in the words of John Ortberg) get out of the boat. Stebbing church have been having a little go at this recently. When the photos are in I will post about that too.

But back to post-apocalyptic films. I guess City of Ember is to "the Matrix" (if you need me to link that, where have you been?) what Monopoly Junior is to the real thing; same theme, but simpler plot, shorter and easier to play (and obviously fewer automatic weapons). There are tons of films that effectively tell the same story; struggling survivors (with a variant, Utopian fallacy), post apocalypse, minority rebel, escape, bring deliverance. It is a story of salvation, but not all the films are as overtly Messianic in imagery as The Matrix.

Here's a little selection for you to compare and contrast

Logan's Run
The Island
The Matrix
Equilibrium
WALL-E

Perhaps you can add to this list.

If I was feeling pious I guess I could say there is a fascination for this kind of stuff because subconsciously we all want to escape, we all want to be saved. Actually the appeal has as much if not more to do with the actors and actresses (I think it is possible that Logan's Run was the inspiration for Kenny Everett's line "and then all my clothes fall off...") and rip roaring action/fight sequences.

I first got interested in this genre at school, studying O-level English literature. If I were to say to you, EM Forster, you'd probably be thinking of a Merchant Ivory film with Helena Bonham Carter in it (too many to link to ). Yet in 1909 Forster wrote The Machine Stops (that's the full text, you can get a summary here). To my mind this short story is the daddy of this kind of narrative. If you ever worry about the Internet having too much influence over us, you'll enjoy Forster's scarily prophetic plot. If they made it into a film today it'd be panned as far too derivative of any of the above!

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