Are you someone who longs to learn Theology of the Body, but you're also a cinephile and you'd love it if there was a way to do it through film?
Your cure has arrived.
Take this prescription in the following order:
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
(THE BIG PICTURE)
Ever notice how our world is kind of messed up? Majorly messed up? We Christians believe that's because of the Fall. When we said no to God and chose death for ourselves, we messed up all of Creation with us. “All of Creation is groaning...awaiting...the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23). “The culture of death” has actually been with us from the beginning, but it takes on different faces in every age.
All our relationships were ruptured at the Fall: with God, within ourselves, with each other, with all Creation. With each other? There was only Adam and Eve, male and female: the primordial human relationship, which is the first love, from where children come, from where the future comes. The family is the most basic cell of society. Families form neighborhoods, neighborhoods form cities, cities form states, states form countries. Society is based on the male/female relationship.
Even though there are no female characters in the "The Hobbit" book, Galadriel, some hobbit womenfolk of the Shire and a quick shot of dwarf wives do appear in the film version. The Theology of the Body connection is that "The Hobbit," although a fantasy, depicts a world bigger than just humans, showing the big picture. We need to situate ourselves in the bigger picture. We are not alone in Creation. There are other beings. All of Creation, the material world, is affected by evil (in the movie, the animals are getting sick because of witchcraft). We are all caught up in the spiritual warfare, the drama of good vs. evil. No one gets to sit on the sidelines. We are all connected.
"I want to help the world be always more in harmony with the will of the Creator." --Pope Francis, March 15, 2013
For a more detailed overview of “The Hobbit” and Theology of the Body by the author, click here.
2. The Tree of Life
Creation, that is, Sacred Nature, continues to play a large part in the contemplative three-hour long “The Tree of Life.” Director Terrence Malick wants to make sure we understand our connection to Nature, so he makes us watch twenty minutes of unbroken nature cinematography (this sequence cost ten million to make).
With this film, we go from seeing the big picture with "The Hobbit" to focusing in on the family. This film family is a hurting family, for sure, but one that is trying. As in all Malick's movies, we hear characters whispering prayers to God, we hear their moral deliberations deep in their consciences and we see the glorious destiny of the human body-person: heaven.
The film starts with a stark quote from the book of Job, placing the film clearly within the Judaeo-Christian ethos. Catholic religious imagery and practices abound.
For a more detailed overview of “The Tree of Life” and Theology of the Body by Sr. Helena, click here.
3. Warm Bodies
(MEN AND WOMEN)
From focusing on the family in "The Tree of Life," we come to the male-female relationship, specifically young love, in the film “Warm Bodies.” A male zombie falls in love with a female human, and it actually works. Not only that, they realize that their love begins to cure all the zombies. They realize "We are the cure"!
The healing of the male/female relationship can cure the whole world. Marriage is the most private and personal relationship but also the most social and public at the same time. Two imperfect people can do something so perfect.
"To live the Theology of the Body is nothing less than to heal the universe. The redemption of the [human] body is nothing less than redemption of the whole physical world." --Christopher West
For a more detailed overview of “Warm Bodies” and Theology of the Body by Sr. Helena, click here.
4. Call the Midwife
What comes of this male-female relationship we saw in "Warm Bodies"? New little persons, more little males and females.
Although “Call the Midwife” is television and not film, this BBC series has spared nothing on production values, sets and fantabulous acting. Based on the real-life memoirs of a nurse-midwife in 1950's poverty-challenged East End of London, we are transported back to a time of high ideals and service as a way of life. Several of these young midwives live with their mentors: Anglican nuns (actual three-dimensional characters, emphasis on "characters").
No matter how poor a woman or family is, not matter what the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, there is an overwhelmingly pro-life sentiment everywhere. Absolutely everyone is pulling for the baby to make it. And here's the thing: pretty much all births were home births. If something went wrong or it seemed there would be a problem from the start, only then was the mother transferred to the hospital. Each woman gives birth in such a unique way. Seeing these very realistic portrayals (even if often excruciatingly painful) could help take the fear of childbirth away in anyone who watches. There is so much joy after the agony.
It's pretty stunning in this day and age to see such a red-blooded (no pun intended), hopeful, positive and optimistic atmosphere welcoming human life without exception as an unquestionable good, the highest good.
GO YE FORTH, WATCH YE THESE FILMS AND BE HEALED!
About the Author
Sister Helena Burns is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, an international congregation founded to communicate God's Word through the media. She has an M.A. in Media Literacy Education; a B.A. in theology and philosophy from St. John's University, NYC; studied screenwriting at UCLA and Act One, Hollywood; and holds a Certificate in Pastoral Youth Ministry. Sr. Helena is also studying at the Theology of the Body Institute, PA.
She is a movie reviewer for Life Teen & The Catholic Channel--Sirius XM. She wrote and directed Media Apostle: The Father James Alberione Story, a documentary on the life of Blessed James Alberione, and is a co-producer on www.The40film.com a pro-life film documenting the 40 years since Roe v. Wade. She is the author of He Speaks to You, a book for young women published by Pauline Books & Media and developed a Theology of the Body curriculum for teens, young adults and adults, which she presents in a 40-hour course.
Sr. Helena gives Media Literacy and Theology of the Body workshops to youth and adults all over the U.S. and Canada, and believes that media can be a primary tool for sharing God's love and salvation.