Sunday, January 11, 2009

DOUBLE FEATURE: A Trip to Bountiful / The Unbelievable Truth

We have here a curious duality - one movie whose title is completely obvious, and another which, after two viewings, I still can't really fully describe. Let's dive in, shall we?

Vital Statistics:
A Trip to Bountiful, 1985
Rating: K

A Trip to Bountiful is based on a stage play by Horton Foote, which I was fortunate enough to see at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR. I don't remember much of the stage production, except a crystal image of the abandoned house, picked out in oranges and browns. The play I recall as being very autumnal, which the film is strikingly not. This movie is a summer movie, a summer movie set in southwest Texas of the early 1940s. It's the story of a highly dysfunctional family (which I recall being better played onstage), and one woman's journey to return to her roots. It's a film loaded with hope, a "creation" film. It has one of my favorite hymns in it, and one of my mother's as well - "Softly and Tenderly," a classic old rooter.

As for theology...there's a definite connection between the idea of Bountiful (this woman's hometown) and Eden - a sense of loss and a desire to return to her roots. There's a strong distinction drawn between loving your neighbour and not. Some characters are cruel and spiteful - all the fellow-travelers are kind and helpful. This is, of course, promptly deconstructed when you begin to see the good intentions behind the cruelty and spite of the "evil." I was struck especially by the rather wistful portrayals of the nameless girl on the bus, and the sherriff. Might-have-beens connect with the desire to return to Eden. And once you get there...it helps. It puts you back on a half-remembered path. The journey and the destination mingle to create a new person, once you've walked the road.

That may have sounded a bit maudlin. The movie's kinda like that.


The Unbelievable Truth, 1989
Rating KJ-13

Have you, ever had a conversation where you and the other person weren't actually listening to one another? Not just "waiting for your turn to speak," I mean that you're both essentially monologuing on unrelated topics.

Imagine that, only it's a movie. The whole movie. There's a scene like that in the movie, but, in fact, the whole movie is kind of that way. We've talked a bit in class about film as a conversation, but in this conversation, whatever I might have tried to say to Hal Hartley, The Unbelievable Truth was going to go the direction he wanted it to go.

There's a continuous refrain with the main character: "Are you a priest?" "No, I'm a mechanic." And it sounds absurd. But there seems to be something in common there. I couldn't tell you what, but something.

This, thus far, has been my favorite of the movies, and is a contender for champion overall. We'll see.

*A note on the rating system. These are intended largely for my mother - sort of an old joke. They are as follows.

K - Mom, you will object to nothing in this movie.
KJ - Oh, I'd forgotten that scene. Whoops. Sorry.
KJ-13 - Okay, there are a few bits we're gonna fast-forward through...
F - Sorry, Mom. I broke the DVD.

2 comments:

Kathy said...

A whole rating system, just for me! Hazzah! (Sorry about your DVD).

My Blog said...

Hello!

My name is Tyson and I am applying to PTS this next Fall. I stumbled across your blog while searching for things about PTS.

This may sound odd, but I am coming to Princeton in February to visit the campus, do an interview, etc. One of my goals is to talk with students while there about their thoughts about the seminary. Reading a few posts on your blog, it seems like we may have some similar views on Christianity. I would love to talk with you more about seminary while I am there.

I know this sounds rather strange but since I am making the trip out from California, I want to make sure I get my money's worth. If this is a possibility, please email me at tbbabayco@gmail.com. Thanks!