Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Vacation Tradition

Every trip we make to the Twin Cities includes a trip to a movie. Usually we look for something light and light-hearted, but something we're not likely to see back in Lindsborg.

This year we didn't choose light and light-hearted,though one of Kris' best friends recommended "Marley and Me." Instead, we chose "Doubt."

Probably because it features Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, both of whose work we greatly admire. The film script is John Patrick Shanley's adaptation of his own Pulitzer Prize winning stage play. As such it does feel a bit more like a stage play than a movie.

We came out of the multiplex debating the film. That makes it an unusual film for our time and one that is worth seeing, and perhaps seeing again.

Here's the trailer, in case you've missed it on TV.

The IMDB discussion boards are fascinating. Most of the discussion about the movie follows the line "Did Father Flynn do anything wrong with the Miller boy?" It seems to me that that isn't the point of the movie, or of the stage play. It seems to me that the point is to awaken in the viewer the feeling of doubt, of uncertainty, and to contrast that feeling with the feeling of absolute certitude that Sister Aloysius maintains throughout the bulk of the film - and that most of us maintain about any number of issues and attitudes toward the world. On the slimmest evidence, based on our convictions, based on our experiences, we are certain of how the world and no amount of pleading can change our minds.

There is virtue in deeply held convictions that are unshakeable. There is also a great deal of harm that can be done to ourselves and others by our certitude.

In the film Father Flynn tells the story of a woman whose gossip has injured another parishioner. He compares that to opening a feather pillow to the winds and allowing the feathers to fly. They can never be brought back to the pillow.

There's truth there too. Perhaps doubt, in the face of the world in which certainty leads to violence - just take a look at the bombings in Gaza and Israel - perhaps doubt is not just needed, but absolutely necessary for our survival as a species.

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