Tuesday 28 July 2009

Lars von Trier's Antichrist

“For what flood of eloquence can suffice to detail the miseries of this life?” —Augustine, City of God, 19.4.

Anthony points to a gripping and eloquent reflection on Lars von Trier’s controversial new film, Antichrist. “Antichrist is very obviously the product of a serious and prolonged depression of frankly theological proportions…. Nature has revealed itself as the relentlessly cruel, profoundly disgusting indifferent monster it always was; human nature is even worse, and women are as disturbed and disturbing as anything a malevolent deity could create in its worst dreams.”

As one of the film’s characters says: “Nature is Satan's church.” I haven’t seen Antichrist yet, but a friend who saw it at Cannes gave it this glowing recommendation: “My God, it’s absolutely brilliant! Pure evil.” You can take that either as a recommendation or a warning...

And speaking of the ambiguities of nature, David Bentley Hart has a new post on the Gnostic turn: “In a sense, a certain ‘Gnostic turn’ is inevitable for us today when we attempt to find our way towards the transcendent, inasmuch as we begin all our spiritual journeys now in a world from which the transcendent has been forcibly expelled, and not as a result of mere cultural prejudice…. We simply cannot now (if we are paying attention) imagine a universe whose grandeurs and mysteries unambiguously lead the reflective mind beyond themselves towards a transcendent order both benign and provident.”


janicer said...

"and women are as disturbed and disturbing as anything a malevolent deity could create in its worst dreams.”

Wow - totally original and inspiring!

Ben Myers said...

Well, I guess you can see why the ecumenical jury at Cannes dubbed it "the most misogynist movie"!

Anonymous said...

Substitute the word "creation" for nature and you have the same thing--the universe as a relentless death or eating machine that grinds everything to rubble.

Eating machine because every form inevitably becomes the food for other forms.

All of which tells us that in and of itself the "created" universe is completely indifferent to the well-being or survival of any living form, human or otherwise.

Symbolized by images of the Hindu goddess Kali, who eats all of her babies (or that which she has given birth to) for breakfast. And destroys entire galaxies when she farts.

But in the meantime we really do need to develop a completely different Understanding of the non-humans in this mostly non-human world.


Tyler Wittman said...

Honestly, the preview for that film doesn't frighten me half as much as the Wikipedia page for the film.

At the moment I'm strictly curious Ben, why do you want to see this film? Does our appreciation of beauty grow as we contemplate the ugly? Is it morbid curiosity? What?

Ben Myers said...

Oh, I haven't really thought much about it. But I often enjoy his films, and I'm very interested in portrayals of "nature". Still, if I do see it, I think I'll have to close my eyes for some scenes (if you've read the wiki page, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about...).

Terry Wright said...

So everyone now rushes to the Wikipedia page...

kim fabricius said...

"Let your works praise you that we may love you, and let us love you that your works may praise you."
--Augustine, Confessions

We all have our Manichaean off-days. But let's not make an idol of evil.

Rory Shiner said...


R said...

(To the film, that is. Not Augustine)

Ben Myers said...

I assumed as much, Rory: nobody Neins Augustine. It would be like Neining the air you breathe...

TW said...

theoblogging is the only thing that can save us from the people around us and this evil world.

Anthony Paul Smith said...

It is important to keep your eyes open. Not to make an idol out of evil, but to make an icon out of it. I have yet to see Antichrist (hopefully going tonight and if I do I suspect I'll write on it at AUFS afterwards), but most of Trier's films, in my view, follow a similar kind of theological framework as Haneke's. The anti-prize that the ecumenical jury awarded is very disappointing as they often pick very good films, even ones that are incredibly hard to watch. I actually think there is something to this theological film-making that academic/prepositional theology could learn from. I teach a "theology through film" module at Nottingham and the one thing I kept trying to push with the students, using mostly Loughlin and Haneke, is that film-theology, when done well, confronts the viewer with revelation in the way Barth or Spinoza never could. That is, it shows it to you and brings about more intense (or in Mullarkey's terms, faster) affects. That affect can either, like 300, make violence "consumable" through its cheap redemption or it can confront you with the reality of violence in order, not to celebrate it, but bring about a desire for something other. I suspect something similar will be going on in Antichrist, though Trier adds more theological layers than most in his very original portrayal of Christ-figures in the midst of this unconsumable violence (I'm thinking of the way we are confronted with what is seemingly mental illness that accompanies the saintly action of Bess).

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the responses here to Ben's post are somewhat shameful, but it is a shame that runs deep through theological thought in that it - even when professing pacifism, the ontology of peace or the peaceableness of the Kingdom - can not look upon violence without trying to redeem it and thereby make it consumable. (Please no clever remarks about the Eucharist here, that is exactly the problem I'm thinking of!) Now go see some good films and do some penance for seeing Transformers 2 (still see it though, just do the penance afterwards). Thanks Ben for the hat-tip and I do hope you see this film against the pious-all-too-pious warnings of your readers.

Anthony Paul Smith said...

And can we all agree to stop posting TW's stupid comments that amount to self-aggrandizing through pretending to be some kind of prophetic voice against blogging? I'm serious. Though of course your own policies on comments are your own, just saying if we all band together maybe we won't have to see that stupid post ever again.

Tyler Wittman said...


I'm not trying to be pious here, just wanting to see how we think through what we watch. And I seriously doubt Antichrist will be half as vile as Transformers 2.

Still, violence and language are all fake, that much is easy to separate in the mind and conscience. Sex is a different matter, I would contend. People don't really die, they don't really mean those words, but that man and that woman really are naked. That's not fake (yes, yes, it's airbrushed and not as messy as the real thing - I get that - but they're still naked).

I absolutely love film, and I exercise a good bit of Christian 'liberty' when it comes to which films I digest. Nevertheless, admonitions like Paul's in Phil 4:8 should guide our thinking rather than academic fog-machine rhetoric (not trying to implicate you, honestly).

Anyhow, I refuse to regulate another person's conscience and I look forward to reading all of your reflections and reviews of this film!

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Umm... the nudity gets to you? Seriously? I mean, I get not liking porn if you want to be a moral person, fair enough, but this is a film and sex is part of life.

Anyway, honestly not trying to implicate you, but I hardly see why throwing off a reference to Paul's admonitions is any less foggy than academic rhetoric.

roger flyer said...

You are what you eat.

roger flyer said...

APS-Not sure who you're calling out as pious, but I'm with Kim's Augustine.

What's with the glorification of edgy film, as if graphic violence and sex were some sort of holy cup filled with profound insight...

I don't get it. It seems to be that you might be confusing nilihism with theology. I don't get this, and why are we pious for saying Nein to it?

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Not sure how you got any kind of glorification of sex (as if it needs any more glory than what is already in it!) and violence from what I've written. It's not glorification of "edgy film" or "graphic violence and sex", it's glorification of good film. Shortbus is a film with lots of graphic sex and it is also a good film; 9 Songs is a film with lots of graphic sex and it is not a good film. Now, my friend, that is the opposite of nihilism (and if another pious RO Christian calls me a nihilist I may have to introduce them to the nothingness). Suggesting that film-makers like Trier or Haneke are nihilists shows a puritanical philistinism that has learned a fancy new word.

You're "pious" (in the puritanical sense - I'm not suing a technical notion of piety here) for saying no (are you all German now?) to (what is likely) a good film based on abstractions rather than content. Sorry, I don't have a ready reference to any authority figure to help make my case.

Adam Kotsko said...

This thread is a great example of why AUFS's comment policy is so thoroughly justified.

dan said...

I suspect that if most of the posters on this thread were actually exposed to real violence on a more regular basis then they might have a different perspective on films like this one.

The key to understanding what to make of films like Antichrist is to ask those who have experienced violence of the sort that is portrayed within the film.

roger flyer said...

APS-What is with all the attitude? I'm stunned. And what makes you the arbiter of what's a good film!?

So far, you've done nothing to recommend your point of view other than to tell us you think you're a film critic.

and dripping with condescension: 'friend',pious,''puritanical'...maybe we could start over...?

I was trying to figure out what recommends film's graphic sex and violence to the thoughtful Christian. Can you help me understand without sounding like you'd to smack me down?

Ben Myers said...

'It's not glorification of "edgy film" or "graphic violence and sex", it's glorification of good film.' Personally, I'm with Anthony on this one — even though I can perfectly understand why many people won't want to see a film like this. I just don't think there's any special moral reason why a Christian should abstain from watching movies that contain sex and violence. (Honestly, have you read Homer or Milton or the Old Testament lately? All the best stories have sex and violence.)

roger flyer said...

generation gap.

Anonymous said...

Ben, APS, Adam,

I'd like to hear more from you in response to roger's question, but without the platitudes. From an outsider's point of view, they are getting in the way of what could be a good discussion.

I read the little bit here, at AUFS, and some of the post on infinite thought, as well as the Antichrist wiki, and I think roger has a good question that's still left unanswered.

I'm pondering it myself, and I'm a relative novice when it comes to movies. I mostly go to left field for comedies and such, but the movies and directors being discussed are new ground for me.


Adam Kotsko said...

I'd recommend simply trying out some of the films that are widely recognized as "great" or "high culture" or whatever -- films that people who are really into film as a medium (directors, critics, film scholars) most admire. Antichrist might not be the best place to start, though other films by Lars von Trier could be. I'd personally recommend Ingmar Bergman (maybe The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, or The Silence) or Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita) or even Woody Allen if you're into comedy (Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Deconstructing Harry). Hitchcock is also widely admired as one who pushed the limits of film as a medium, and his films are very accessible and watchable.

I know this seems to be asking a lot of work of you, but the only way you'll really be able to understand why this particular film is or isn't good is if you're conversant with truly great cinema -- our words here will necessarily sound like platitudes if we don't have a critical mass of shared reference points.

Adam Kotsko said...

I'll add that up until a couple years ago, I was definitely in your shoes when it came to movies, but then I started getting ambitious with my Netflix account and renting a lot of films by major directors, both American and foreign (Bergman, Fellini, Woody Allen, Scorsese, Godard, Antonioni, Kurosawa) -- just watching a couple movies a week, you can get through a lot of stuff. And I'll tell you that I am continually surprised by what movies can do -- I never would have guessed if I hadn't sat down and just started watching all this great stuff with patience and an open mind (which to me also means having an open mind about sex and violence when it's in a film widely regarded as great, although by the time I started my project of "getting into film," that wasn't much of a problem for me personally).

Anonymous said...


I've seen quite a bit of Hitchcock and two or three Kurusawa, and some random Woody Allen movies.

My question/comment is not really aimed at picking apart high brow cinema, or whatever you want to call it. Don't get me wrong, I can get a little buzzed and have a blast watching Step Brothers, but generally I stick with movies that most moviegoers have never heard of. For example, some of my favorites are Brazil, Being There, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Bottle Rocket.

What I was getting at was the questions roger was throwing out there about really graphic sex and violence. I was thinking the same thing as roger and I can't chalk it up to a generation gap because I'm probably the youngest here!

Maybe it's just due to the violent descriptions from Antichrist that I have in my head. I know that they are vastly different movies, but I typically stay away from anything that's in your face violent like most modern horror movies. I realize that Antichrist and something like Saw are many layers and nuances apart in all likelyhood, but from the descriptions, I just don't think I'd be able to get past the violence in something like Antichrist - granting that there might be theological or philosophical nuance even in the violence.

I hope that explains it more. I run in some circles with some film buffs on a hockey message board of all places, so I've wanted to check out Bergman for some time. I'll have to check out some of those soon, but it will have to wait until school. Our library has a decent collection of movies, and I'm broke right now - the money I do have is earmarked for something more important (beer!).

Adam Kotsko said...

I would choose beer as well.

What do you think of Tarantino?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge fan, but I did really like Pulp Fiction. Reservoir Dogs was good, but maybe I hyped it up too much. I haven't seen it in a long time. I watched it in 11th or 12th grade when I was first getting into movies (5-6 years ago). I haven't seen Kill Bill or any of the earlier ones. The preview for Inglorious Bastards looked pretty terrible to me, especially the Pitt speech that they show, but I think that's the point.

Maybe I should give Kill Bill a try? I think I'm going to try to get some Bergman and also look at more Woody Allen. I glanced t imdb, and the only Woody Allen I've seen is Match Point. I won't lie - it was largely because of Scarlett Johansson.

kim fabricius said...

My original comment, btw, with the line from the Confessions, was not addressing the film; it was rather a qualifying comment, to balance the bleak quotation from the City of God (with the notion of "pure evil" in my sights). I didn't mean to drop a thread-turd.

As to some of the points raised ...

Sex and violence in the cinema: with Ben, not a problem - unless it's gratuitous; but then sex and violence don't have a monopoly on filmic gratuity. And there are plenty of good - great - films with sex and violence in them. (Pulp Fiction, I think, is one of them; Reservoir Dogs, I think, is not.)

I would have thought that the only salient question to ask about a film (as with any art form) is precisely that: Is it a good film or a crappy film? And the answer will depend on an evaluation of both form and content - and I think the better the film, the harder it will be to prise the two apart. It will also depend, I think, on the moral, social, and political judgements that any critic worth his salt will exercise. None of this is rocket science; if anything, I apologise for its triviality.

As for the "nihilistic", I think we must distinguish between a film that is an anatomy of nihilism and a film that is (if you like) teleologically nihilistic, i.e. that shits on life. Eliot's iconic poem The Waste Land is nihilistic in the former sense, registering as it does what Terry Eagleton calls "this haemorrhaging of experience from modern urban life"; it is not, however, nihilisitc in the latter sense: on the contrary, its barrenness is that of a seedbed, its hopelessness plaintive, yearning, and somehow restorative.

Now I have not seen Antichrist. Anthony ends his reflection thus: "Antichrist is disturbing because ultimately there is no separating the natural from the unnatural, right from wrong. There is trauma because there is life and then death, and none of it means anything." It sounds to me like von Trier is at least acutely discerning and evoking a cultural mood. But is he marketing it?

Adam Kotsko said...

I think that the burden of proof is really on the people who think sex and violence in movies is ipso facto problematic. I don't say this to be an asshole -- I don't see it as a problem and have trouble getting into a mindset that would see it as a problem unless there was just an arbitrary rule against it.

kim fabricius said...

The Wire (we're just getting it in the UK): sex, violence, bad-assed language - the lot: and an absolutely brilliant bar-raiser. Do you feel me?

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Roger: you called me a nihilist and then you're upset when I call you pious? It isn't like the tone prior to my comments was so high-minded; there appeared to be some kind of consensus that Trier's film would be really horrible to see and that good Christian folks should shun it. Now that said, I don't know what kind of answer I could give you for why seeing a violent film or a sexually graphic film is good (partially because I can't quite parse your sentence, what do you mean when you say "what recommends"?). Frankly watching a movie like Antichrist (which I have just come from - brilliant film, so much going on in it) I never think "there is going to be sex and violence, oh yay!" It isn't a film about some fetish object (most Hollywood blockbusters make violence consumable or turn sex into an uncomplicated subject-object relation, etc) and is so outside the framework of violence-for-its-own-sake that it just isn't an issue for me. If you're interested in seeing a film that is disturbing, meaning it will make shake you from your dogmatico-cinematic slumber, then give it a shot and if you are not, well, then you aren't really into film as an art form (though you may like entertainment and that is fine and good as far as these things go).

Nothing makes me the arbiter of good film (as an aisde: I am a little bothered that in the same post you feign some kind of offense with my tone you suggest that I've not even attempted to be persuasive, instead arguing as if I were an authority figure). Never said I was. I have, to the best of my abilities in a comment box, explained why I think film-makers like Trier and Haneke make theologically challenging films and why I think they are good to watch. What has been lacking is any explanation other than "it has sex" for why one would consider this a bad film (to say nothing of not wanting to see it). I wouldn't claim any expertise on film, but I wouldn't go so far as to feign humility I lack and, furthermore, don't feel I need to pretend I have. These are issues that I have given serious thought to to the extent that I have taught a course on them. So, yeah, I think we can decide what is a good film as art and differentiate that from bad films and even films that are entertaining (and again, I think that's good!) but lack the amount of quality and care that is present in Trier's Antichrist.

Dom: What I am having trouble understanding is why you would be fine with Pulp Fiction, which has a lot more violence than Antichrist, and not Antichrist, though it perhaps has more graphic sex and presents the violence more realistically (in that it isn't glorified, no one gets hacked to death with a sword in an instance of redemptive violence). Is it mainly the sex that gets to you? If that is so then that would be an issue you would have to deal with before seeing a film that has graphic sex in it, but it wouldn't be right to blame the film for that issue. I say this thinking Tarantino is one of our great directors - he is essentially the Andy Warhol of film - so I'm not saying you shouldn't watch him, just asking where this discrepancy in your thinking comes in.

dan: In the context of the plot I really don't understand your comment. What people would you ask about the violence shown in Antichrist?

roger flyer said...

Kim once again has 'more' eloquently articulated my point of view.

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Finally, to Ben and whoever, it was a really good film. If you ever thought "I really like Lars von Trier, but I wonder what would happen if he did a horror movie", well, you have your answer. It really brought together the usually brilliance and slow pace of his other movies with aspects of the horror genre in a, to me at least, terrifying way (seriously, I'm still up because I am a little spooked). This meant that a lot of the audience hated it - half thinking they came to see a Trier film and half thinking they came to see a horror film. The focus in the media on the violence is really misplaced, the majority of the film lacks violence and, while there are disturbing scenes involving deformed animals or the eating of animals, it is largely a character driven film. Also of note is that it was dedicated to the great Russian director Tarkovsky and that he credits a team of researchers - one on misogyny and two for theology (there were more, but I can't remember it all now). I have some more thoughts, but I'm trying to collect them all into some kind of coherence. OK, really to end, I don't think I agree with infinite thought (who wrote the reflection Ben links to, not me) completely on the "message" of the film. Yes, there is no separation between the natural and unnatural, but that doesn't mean there is no difference between "right" and "wrong" (though we would have to talk about what these terms means ethically). It seems clear to me, for instance, that when there is genital mutilation it isn't presented as "just something that happens". It fucking matters! It is matter! So, finally, I'm probably a little less inclined to this diagnosis of rampant nihilism than most of the readers of this blog, but I don't think Trier is "marketing" anything here in the sense you mean it. Not his style as he's been in the shit. Now I have an index to finish.

roger flyer said...


OK. I think we misunderstood one another. Has that everhappened before? Let's have a beer and parse Bergman. I think The Antichrist (as pitched) might cause too many tears in my beer.

I'll take away your nilihism if you take away my piety (Oh shit, I might be a pietist)

Anonymous said...

Anthony, thanks for the response. The only thing I can say is that maybe I'm just making too big of a deal out of Antichrist in my head because of the wiki description. Maybe it's one of those things where your imagination can run wild with just what you've read. Pulp Fiction is extremely violent, but the description of some of the stuff I read made Antichrist seem more extreme. Maybe it is the sex stuff, mixed with violence. I'm not sure - I suppose I'm drawing an arbitrary line here.

kim, earlier this summer, I watched the entire series of The Wire online in about two or three weeks. Great show.

I don't want to hijack the thread, but while we're loosely on the subject, I'm curious to see what people think of Synecdoche, New York. Many Kaufman fans I've run across didn't seem to think it was very good, but I think it might be his best.

I tend to like Wes Anderson, Gondry, and Kaufman the most as far as movie people today go. I haven't seen anything by von Trier, so maybe I should rent something and check it out.


roger flyer said...

you need a salad with your bratwurst.
Sound of Music?

: )

Anthony Paul Smith said...


I would recommend Breaking the Waves and give Loughlin's chapter in Alien Sex a read alongside. Also, the wikipedia entry sort of ruined the aggression of those scenes (by that I mean being confronted with this violence) as I was ready for it. Really, that's all the violence in the whole film and it is extreme, but presented starkly and horrifically in contradistinction to the kind of "it is all ok" cowboy violence of Pulp Fiction. I will say if you don't like any of Trier's other films you really won't like this one and so check a less graphic one out first before you go watch some genital mutilation.




Long quote from you just to place what I'm going to say in context: "As for the "nihilistic", I think we must distinguish between a film that is an anatomy of nihilism and a film that is (if you like) teleologically nihilistic, i.e. that shits on life. Eliot's iconic poem The Waste Land is nihilistic in the former sense, registering as it does what Terry Eagleton calls "this haemorrhaging of experience from modern urban life"; it is not, however, nihilisitc in the latter sense: on the contrary, its barrenness is that of a seedbed, its hopelessness plaintive, yearning, and somehow restorative."

This, it seems to me, is part of the problem though and why something seemingly hopeless "in itself" like Haneke's 7th Continent or Antichrist is less nihilistic than, say, the Wasteland (just for the sake of a bit of polemic). The world is shit, or to put it in other terms, it is the very Powers of this world that can take even "good people" and still shit on life (as you say). To expose this, and I don't think it is right to call it nihilism in any intentional sense (but that's neither here nor there), to expose this cruelty of stupidity or what have you and then present some kind of restorative or redemptive spin on it is to lay the seeds for more "good people" to take up Power and perpetuate the system. This is why I wish Goodchild's work was more widely read as he makes a brilliant point that we have to think very hard about how to respond to the aftermath of the environmental crisis or else we will simply perpetuate the old problems again, even in our attempts to solve them (more privatization!). Adam has actually made this point as well, that any attempt to "live off the grid" ultimately fails because it doesn't think past the rebellion. We have to start, as a common affect, from the position that Trier and Haneke leave us at the end of their films. Not ideologically restored and able to go about our day, but disturbed enough that our desire breaks free and begins to produce, not the old thoughts, but new ones.

roger flyer said...

(Roger takes a long draw from his beer and is silent. Then he orders a scotch and one for Kim and is ready to listen for awhile))

Brad said...

For my money, the importance of filmic violence is not really related to how graphic it is so much as the degree to which the viewer feels as though s/he is being observed by the violence to the more or less same degree to which s/he is observing the violence. Hitchcock was a master of this: think of Scotty staring wild-eyed at you in Vertigo as madness overtakes him; or Marian reaching out to you in Psycho as she is stabbed in the shower. Even at his most graphic, Tarantino achieves this as well. Think, for example, about Marvin getting his brains literally blown out in Pulp Fiction. Here, T. is far more interested in what happens after the moment of violence--whereas most other banal depictions of violence are just interested in the action itself. (The same thing happens in the long drawn out, bloody deaths of Reservoir Dogs.) The characters responding to these acts of violence act out narratively the revulsion and horror and surprise that we, the viewers, feel, and are left to pick up its pieces. This is a far cry from the more mundane instances of slasher-flick violence where the object of the violence is shocked for a moment, just before being wounded or killed, followed by the story moving on to a new scene.

Where the violence itself is the focus, it loses any sort of violent effect on the viewer -- we're just receiving it, to the point that, as they say, we are de-sensitized to it. One does not get de-sensitized that easily, though, to the violence that stares you down and forces you to account for it as violence. Much the same can be said of sex, I suppose. This is the stuff of nature, of life and death, and precisely the stuff that provokes religious reflection.

Danny said...

"Umm... the nudity gets to you? Seriously? I mean, I get not liking porn if you want to be a moral person, fair enough, but this is a film and sex is part of life."

This quote was earlier in the discussion and the comments here might be dead, but how does sex being "part of life" justify its being depicted on the screen? Isn't there something unique, something private about sexual intimacy that warrants Christians closing their eyes or wincing during graphic sex? This is not to say all movies with sex should be boycotted, blah blah blah. I haven't hear any good theological reasons for showing sex on the big screen. A lot of people here are paranoid about being uncool. This blog (or this blog's comments, rather) need to get past the whole "I'm not a fundie so I can watch whatever the hell I want and if you don't like it you're a big pious prude" thing...

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting way to put it, Brad. I've made that connection with Hitchcock before, but not others. Maybe it's time to watch Tarentino again.

I got into Hitchcock when I was really young, maybe 13-14, thanks to my dad. Because of this I've always been put off by in your face violence, even though I can see the obvious difference between something like Pulp Fiction and your run of the mill 3d gorefest or whatever.

The genital mutilation and other things described cross over different lines, of course (on purpose), but from what Anthony's saying, it sounds like the hubbub about everything is way too focused and out of context from the rest of the movie. I'll check out one of his films when I get the chance, and now I'm kind of looking forward to coming back to Tarentino.

Thanks to you guys I have a slew of movies to watch and no way to do it yet! I need to convince the guys in my house to get a joint Netflix, but only my roommate would really watch any of these movies.


Brad said...

Isn't there something unique, something private about sexual intimacy that warrants Christians closing their eyes or wincing during graphic sex?

Isn't this question grounded in assumptions that positively scream "I'm a big pious prude."

Adam Kotsko said...

What is specifically "Christian" about wanting to leave the intimacy of sex private?

Tyler Wittman said...

I agree with some of what you're saying but I think people have made up their minds.

For instance, I believe I was implicitly accused of an ad verecundiam when referencing Paul in describing my own conscience concerning these matters...I don't think the conversation you're wanting to have is the conversation they're wanting to have.

I learned more by listening.

APS, thank you for your thoughts on film and this one in particular. I think we simply depart on some issues surrounding theological aesthetics, but I appreciate the diversity.

kim fabricius said...

... to expose this cruelty of stupidity or what have you and then present some kind of restorative or redemptive spin on it is to lay the seeds for more "good people" to take up Power and perpetuate the system.

The last thing I am proposing, APS, is this kind of "spin", some (as it were) aesthetic theodicy, let alone the film as pep talk. (If you think The Waste Land is in this category, we are reading a different poem.) On the contrary, following Barth's powerful, if peculiar, idea of das Nichtige, I do not think that evil can be harmonised with the goodness of God either systematically or systemically. I recognise the aporia here.

But that is not the end of the matter, either discursively or practically. There is a next move: it is Christological. In art this move need not be explicit; in fact, when it is, the art is usually pretty crappy. But because God has made evil his own affair, because in Jesus he has met it and fought it and overcome it, because we wouldn't even know what evil ultimately is without this divine encounter and victory, we can sound the note of hope and even what Barth called "joy over the abyss", and we can become what Ricoeur calls "co-belligerents" in the fight gainst evil and in witnessing to its defeat.

The tragic has its place, even - especially - in the Christian story. That we must attend to the tragic without evasion or spin, explanation or assimilation - here I sit at the feet of Donald MacKinnon. Nevertheless - to refer to Eliot again - it would be an egregious misunderstanding to think that the end of "Little Gidding", the conclusion of Four Quartets, could not be recited in the presence of Ivan Karamazov.

roger flyer said...

(Little Leonard moves humbly to the front of the class with his ofering:

...If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing...

(Everyone is silent as he walks back to his seat.

Anthony Paul Smith said...


I wasn't trying to insult you, I guess that particular perspective is just so far from my own life that I have trouble understanding it at all or seeing how one can hold it. Apologies for being a bad pluralist.

Anthony Paul Smith said...

For anyone still interested over at AUFS I've posted the syllabus for the Theology through Film course I taught last semester.

Unknown said...

Something near discourteous about Defoe working both sides of the street, i.e. a previous Temptation.

it said...


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