It's been a while since I posted here. I've been on two trips and the fall semester started--and it's been a zinger! I ended up with two classes added to my schedule in the last couple of weeks, and I like to be super prepared. Syllabus and online course layout won the attention contest.
But I'm coming back to regular writing and posting on writing and creativity.
A friend referred me to a new podcast (well, for me, not for the podcaster). It's by Zena Dell Rowe. She is a screenwriter and filmmaker in Hollywood and works with my friend Knox Marshall of Imagination Bay studio (check them out!).
Her podcast is called The Storyteller's Mission. It's about screenwriting and storytelling, and she has a lot to say about bad writing, by Christians and otherwise. She is a believer.
(While I' at it, check out my podcast--in a couple of weeks my conversation with Knox will be on there, and we had a great time talking film and creativity.)
All that is a prologue to the real meat of this post, two films by Woody Allen.
No one is going to argue that Woody Allen is a moral person, so that is not the point here. He is not a person of religious faith who is writing about faith and human existence. Well, maybe that second part is not true. His mature films (where it's not all about women falling over themselves to sleep with him) deal with some important themes.
The two films I will refer to here are Crimes and Misdemeanors and Cassandra. Both, I feel pretty safe in saying are responses or homages or some similar word to Crime and Punishment, a book I am due to reread soon.
In Crimes and Misdemeanors, an affluent dentist in New York pays his brother-in-law, a low-life hit man, to kill his mistress because she is causing trouble with his social status. The hit takes place, the mistress is found dead, the killer is not caught, and life goes on for the dentist, and in the final scene he is talking to Woody Allen's character, in hypotheticals, about what this kind of thing would say about the universe and morality. In an earlier scene in the film, the dentist, his wife, family, and others, are at the wedding of a family member. The bride's father is a rabbi who is going blind with no hope of a cure. There is a discussion about the justice of his situation.
In Cassandra, a newer film set in London, two brothers are trying to hustle for money. Their uncle is rich and a "player," knowing lots of people in Hollywood and elsewhere. He is looked up to as the smartest man in the room and the family depends on his deep pockets. When the brothers need money, they go to their uncle, who is visiting London, to ask for help. The uncle says of course, but as family, they need to do something for him. What? Kill a former business partner who is going to testify against him and ruin him. Do they do it? What happens? You can watch it, although you're going to hear the requisite bad language and you are going to have to watch a Woody Allen film, which you may not want to, on principle. I understand.
Yes, they do. But . . . unlike in Crimes and Misdemeanors, and more like Crime and Punishment, the act leads to their destruction, and the uncle walks away.
So, what's the point? The point is about Christian writing. Zena Dell Rowe makes the point that the first quality of "Christian writing" (a problematic term we can dissect elsewhere) is to tell the truth, and that means that it can't end "positive" or superficially "redemptive" if there is no repentance. One of the brothers in ˆ (the name of a boat they own, by the way) wants to repent, but his "sin" has led him so far into alcohol and pills that he can't function. He does want to confess to the police. The other brother feels bad but justifies the murder to the point where he is willing to kill his brother to save his skin.
Woody Allen, perhaps, wrote a film that is more Christian than God is Not Dead (which I confess I haven't seen) even though Woody Allen has no connection to Christ (there is a wonderful video of him on YouTube interviewing Billy Graham, though.)
How did this happen? Because Woody Allen is basing his art on a Christian classic by Dostoevsky, also the author The Brothers Karamazov.
More later as I ponder this subject....Comments appreciated.