Thursday, January 29, 2009


I've seen lots of advertising for the film Doubt recently.

It's a good film and has won many awards. Merle Streep is a critic's choice - says the TV ad. I hope Philip Seymour Hoffman also gets an award or two for his work in the film. Kris and I saw it over the Christmas holiday, and we thought highly of the film.

But I fear that many viewers of the movie will become obsessed with the issue of whether or not Father Flynn was a pedophile. I think that that issue is a minor one compared to the universal issue of doubt and certainty. That, it seems to me, is what the film is about. After all, Shanley called the stage version of this play "A parable."

In this case I don't think Shanley means "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." Rather, I think he means parable as an extended metaphor.

I think this film brings viewers to realize the burden of certitude and the grief of doubt. It's a feeling one gets, not an idea that you immediately derive from either the action, or the dialog of the drama.

Doubt and certitude. The country is full of folks certain about their religious conviction and unable to entertain doubt - at least not intellectually. These folks have done great harm to our political and scientific discourse in the past two decades. I've several colleagues who are absolutely certain of the correctness of their opinions. They do damage to their personal relationships with this certitude.

Me, I'm not sure about much of nothing.

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