Monday, April 24, 2006

Community: What Does Film Have To Say?

Despite our passionate desire for independence I think we also have a strong desire to be interconnected with others. I recently rewatched the movie Grand Canyon (the 1991 film about race and violence, that some have compared to Academy Award winning film Crash).

Grand Canyon, like Crash, is one of many films that deals with multiple characters who you would think otherwise wouldn't interact with one another but end up being uniquely connected through certain situations and relationships. (For example, Robert Altman's Short Cuts and P.T. Anderson's Magnolia).

And it doesn't have to just be the bizarre relationships that draw us together. There are some really great films that don't just deal with our "it's a small-world" web of relationships. Favorite films of mine like The Station Agent, In America, and Pieces of April all demonstrate our desperate need for others in our life. Yet the in order for us to have genuine relationships with others we need to give a little bit of ourselves.

I love how in Grand Canyon, Mack (Kevin Kline) revisits tow-truck driver Simon (Danny Glover) over breakfast, and in turn Kline's character begisn to draw on his personal connections to help Simon's extended family and enrich his personal life.

I think this is a great relationship because I think this is the type of influence we long to have in the lives of others. And yet I don't think we want to have to go to much effort. Or maybe we're willing to go to the effort but we're pulled in lots of different ways so we never do anything.

But I think the biggest problem is that when we are forced to interact with others who are different from us we get uncomfortable and shy away, and it's only when we are forced to interact in meaningful ways with strangers will a process of that nature even begin. It's when Katie Holmes over breaks in Pieces of April that she meets many of her neighbors and forges relationships with them. And it's not until a horrible accident occurs that Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton are able to experience any sort of redemption in Crash.

I think it's clear in cinema that community serves a valuable function, but it also takes a lot of effort. (Think of how much effort it took for Joe to begin to be a part of Finbar and Olivia's life in The Station Agent).

But there is joy and support and comfort in those relationships. The most beautiful picture of community to me is the way that the love of two little Irish girls in Jim Sheridan's In America begin a transformative process in the life of a dying artists and their own family.

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AWG said...

The only one of those I haven't seen is "In America." I did like "Pieces of April" quite a bit. And "Grand Canyon" is a classic!

Paula said...

Community. Relationship. If we could truly live this way, we would be existing in God's image. No wonder the Enemy does all he can to keep us separated, to isolate us.

I'll have to look up "Pieces of April"...