Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Book of Eli

I kind of wanted to write this post about The Book of Eli after I'd read a few reviews of the film, but I've only read a small few. It seems this film is getting labeled as "Right-Wing Christian Fundamentalist", which puzzles me. This film doesn't go into theology much at all, so I struggle to see how it can be fundamentalist anything. It quotes the Bible a few times, like Psalm 23 and an interesting variation on the Golden Rule: "Do for others more than what you'd do for yourself", but fundamentalist Christian? Really? The main character, Eli, talks about God as "a voice from inside". That isn't fundamental Christianity. Nor is ignoring the plight of people in trouble simply to "stay on the path." Maybe my idea of what is fundamentalist and what isn't is skewed because I come from a so-called "liberal" church, but I don't think so.

I mean, what I loved about this film is that it commented quite intelligently about the way religion can be used in different ways, for good and for evil. If the Bible at the centre of this film represents modern day Christianity, or religion in general, it makes an effective statement about the politicisation of the church. The villain, Carnegie, only wants the Bible for the power it will give him over the town he has constructed. One of the characters, Solara, comments about how Carnegie wants to construct more towns to the north and become their leader. On the other hand Eli wants to find the place where the Bible will find its new home and benefit the people who live there. So, right-wing fundamentalist? This film argues that the Christian Right is manipulative and harmful.

The film makes you question whether Carnegie's town is as good as it's going to get for people like Eli, but then convinces you no, Carnegie is evil and has no grace. He consorts with murderers and thieves. He is misogynistic and capitalises on other people's misfortune. Instead, we should be looking further afield for something better than what Carnegie has to offer. There is a better home for this book and what it represents, and it has nothing to do with exploiting other people.

I don't want to talk about too much more for fear of spoiling the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, although I think some of the recurring motifs were interesting. For now I'll have to content myself with saying that taking this movie as a Fundamentalist Christian film is only giving it the most superficial of readings. I may venture so far as to say it reflects a narrow worldview. I'm certainly not saying its a perfect film by any means. The end was a little clumsy (though surprising!) and the killing other people bit undermined the "do unto others" bit a little too much for my pacifist liking.

Still, I found it to be thought-provoking and I'm a little disappointed to hear that other people didn't give it the complexity of thought it deserved.

Anyway, what did you think? Be conscious that some readers might not have seen it yet, so no spoilers in the comments please!

'Til tomorrow


1 comment:

  1. I haven't actually seen Book of Eli. I don't really know what it's about either, so I can't comment on the actual movie. However, I have to say that from what you've said, it sounds like it's very confused. The whole do better unto others thing really doesn't go well with killing people (go pacifism!), which just leaves me confused as to what the movie is actually trying to say. Anyway, I'll let people who've seen it discuss it now.