Monday, January 23, 2012

Religion Bashing Films (Part 2)

So here’s part two of my Religion Bashing Films monster blog post as promised! The first one was a hit, so I'm hoping you guys will dig this one as well. I’ve enjoyed doing the research for these articles and watching all these movies. This article focuses on a group of films that talk about that moment when you first get a glimpse of that blinding flash of light, when you start seeing the real truth. The article speaks about a group of films that ask  questions like: What impulses religion? Can humanity live without it? Are we ready for that big change? And finally: "What does God need with a starship?" Hope you guys enjoy it and as always, I’m expecting replies galore and suggestions of films that can be added to this list so dont hold back on your comments! Also, if you haven't checked it out yet, go to this link for the first part of the article.    

Title: The Village (2004)

Synopsis: The Village is all about this group of people who live in a town that thrives on fear. You see, the towns leaders decided that in order to run a successful society, they must run it on just that, fear. Their purpose? To keep society in line, to make sure that everyone behaves. Again, we are presented with the idea that humanity doesn’t trust itself enough to run without religion. Can we be good people without believing in the bible and that God and his angels are watching us all the time? I’d like to think we can. In fact, I’m sure we can. The Village presents us with a faux society created by M. Night Shyamalan, but it kind of reminds me of the real world, with people being afraid of invisible beings that they’ve never even really seen. Also, I love the symbolisms on this film, for example, the main character in the film is a blind girl whose been brought up in this society, but she wants to venture out. She is an inquisitive being and so she wants to go further then she was led to believe she could go, which is what happens when someone wants to break with the ideas of religion and wants to venture into new ideas and ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world. At first you are blind, but upon further research and knowledge you soon discover that many things in this world are not what you’ve been lead to believe.   

Religion Bashing Quote: “I see the world Lucius Hunt, not as you see it”

Title: The Island (2005)

Synopsis: In The Island we meet Lincon Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta, two clones that live in a contained utopian society. On this society, everyone dresses the same and follows the rules. In this society everyone participates in a lottery, whoever wins it gets a free ticket to a place everyone calls ‘The Island’. Supposedly this island is a place where all your troubles vanish, and you can finally be completely happy. This idea reminds me of the Loto that we all hope we will one day win but also of the paradise that many religions promise their followers. Some religions have you think that when you die, you are going to a “better life” up in heaven, others have you believe that you will become a god yourself (Mormons) or that you can become an angel and reunite with all your loved ones in heaven. Other Christian factions would have you think that god is going to swipe you away to heaven in some sort of rapture. Or that God is going to destroy all evil in the world, and that only the faithful will remain to rebuild earth and turn it back to the paradise it once was. These are just some examples of how each religion has its own paradise. But are they all real? On The Island, Lincoln Echo Six and Jordan Two Delta learn that ‘The Island’ is a lie, an illusion that they have been fed. And now that they’ve discovered this truth, they want out! They want to live in the real world! This is quite possibly Michael Bay’s most thought provoking film, and that’s saying a lot since most of the time he concerns himself with action and special effects rather then deep themes. Thankfully, The Island offers up all of those qualities in one film. See? I guess I do believe in miracles after all.   

Religion Bashing Quote: “I want to know answers, and I wish that there was more; more than just waiting to go to The Island ”

Title: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Synopsis: It’s always amazed me how Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz could have so many deep and important themes in it, but of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that its based on L. Frank Baum’s famous Oz novels. Baum’s books where children’s books with some truly awesome themes hidden within them.  Interesting how sometimes children’s books and films are the ones with the deepest themes. Take for example Pans Labyrinth (2006), The Harry Potter Franchise and Alice in Wonderland, all films and books that explore everything from religion and the idea of god to politics and education. The Wizard of Oz has four characters searching for the all powerful God like Oz. They’ve been told that he can solve all of their problems with his powerful magic! They end up discovering that the ‘All Powerful Oz’ was really just a man, with no powers at all. He’d been lying to everyone all the time! Thankfully, they discover the solution to all their problems was always within them to begin with; which is what I hope humanity will one day learn. That we don’t need to rely on invisible beings that we can never see or hear; that all we need to believe in and rely on is in ourselves and our ability to make our dreams a reality.  

Religion Bashing Quote: The Guardian of the Emerald City says: “The Wizard?! But nobody can see the Great Oz! Nobody’s even seen The Great Oz! Even I’ve never seen him!” Dorothy replies: “Well, then how do you know there is one?”

Title: Agora (2009)

Synopsis: Agora is all about the clash between Christianity, which was quickly growing at the time, and the older schools of thought. This film takes place during the time when the Romans tried their best to spread Christianity amongst the masses in a very violent way. This meant that if you didn’t believe in Jesus, you’d most likely get your throat cut, which is kind of ironic because the bible is supposed to be all about love? But anyways, back then, if you worshipped some god in a temple that wasn’t Christian, your temple would get taken down and if denied Christ you were dead. This film focuses on that era when saying you were an unbeliever wasn’t the best thing to do; back then, saying something like that could have meant your life. Nowadays you say you don’t believe in Jesus and you’ll get judged, rejected or marginalized, hell, you’ll even be called ‘crazy’ but you wont loose your head over it or get burned at the stake like they did during the days depicted in Agora. This film shows how Christianity was practically forced down people’s throats, back then you either believed or you died! Fear is a powerful tool in deed. Agora is all about knowledge vs. religion, and let me tell you my friends, this film is vastly underrated! The production is so lavish; it reminded me of those old bible based movies from the past, like The Ten Commandments (1956) or Cleopatra (1963) with huge sets and hundreds of extras. Highly recommend this film from acclaimed filmmaker Alejandro Amenobar, the director behind The Others (2001), another film with anti-religious themes in it. Agora explores vividly and accurately the way in which Christianity spread its roots across humanities psyche; by way of the sword!  

Religion Bashing Quote: “Synesius, you don’t question what you believe, or cannot. I must!”

Title: Doubt (2008)

Synopsis: This film doesn’t necessarily bash religion, rather, it kind of respectfully slaps it lightly on the face. This film is told from the point of view of a couple of nuns, one is old fashioned and very zealous, the other is new and just starting out in her nun way of life. The nuns start noticing something kind of sexual going on between a boy and the priest of the church. No surprise there, priests of the Catholic Church have now become synonymous with child molestation. These events truly disturb the two nuns and cause them to doubt their faiths. They wonder why God doesn’t do anything about it. I ask myself the very same question. It’s sickening when you learn just how many millions of dollars the Catholic Church has to spend every year to legally protect its priests from child molestation charges. This film would make a good double bill with the documentary Deliver Us From Evil, though in all honesty, this double bill might prove to be too much for one night.  

Religion Bashing Quote: “I will step outside of the church if that’s what needs to be done, till the door should shut behind me! I will do what needs to be done, though I’m damned to hell! You should understand that, or you will mistake me. ”

Title: At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul

Synopsis: At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is one of the first Brazilian horror movies, and it’s about this grave digger named Ze Do Caixao (Coffin Joe for the American Audiences) who is kind of nuts and extremely intense. He hates religion and talk of the afterlife because to him it is all a lie. The supernatural is just silly superstition to him. To him, the only way we can live forever is by having offspring. So he goes through out the whole film looking for a woman to bare him a son. The filmmaker behind this film, the same actor who plays Ze (Jose Mojica Marins) used a technique that many filmmakers use, they have their villain say how they really feel about things, and boy can this Ze character spew some hatred towards religion! One scene has people walking down the street on a religious procession as Ze stands by his window laughing and eating meat while he makes fun of the Christians and their rituals, which he considers stupid. Another scene has him walking through a graveyard defying supernatural beings to come out and show themselves. This film was made for next to nothing, it is in black and white, and it has a lot of old school camera tricks. The sets are claustrophobic and half assed. Many times, scenes that take place in exteriors are obviously not. But ultimately, the end result was the creation of one of Brazil’s and horrordoms most anti-religious characters ever.  The villain is the star of the film, and it’s so easy to hate him because he is so selfish, and so evil. Weird thing is that sometimes what he says makes all the sense in the world!                                                                                                                                                                                          

Religion Bashing Quote: “What is life? It’s the beginning of death! What is death? It is the end of life! What is existence? It’s the continuity of blood. What is blood? It is the reason to exist!”

Title: The Matrix (1999)

Synopsis: So I’m not gonna go deep into what The Matrix is all about because I’m sure most of you know it by heart. But this film does need to be included on this list because this is exactly what it’s about. No matter how confusing the sequels became, the first Matrix film was always crystal clear to me. We all live under the assumption that life is one way, when in fact, the reality is another. Most people are asleep, never truly awake. But Neo is inquisitive; he wants to know just what The Matrix is. Asking a question like “What is The Matrix?”” is the equivalent of asking the big questions in life. Where did we come from? Where did we begin? And it’s that questioning that we must never loose, that curiosity to always ask why? “It’s the question that drives us Neo” is one my favorite quotes from that movie because it’s so true, the mystery keeps life interesting. Like a good movie. Neo’s curiosity eventually leads to his awakening. But just what happens when someone awakens from the slumber? What happens when we take the red pill of truth? When we wake up and finally see this world for what it really is? It’s a shock, and again, same as with many films on this list, we are presented with the idea of adjustment to this shock of how the world really is. But the question arises in that pivotal scene with the traitorous Cypher. Do you want to eat that fake yet delicious stake that you can eat inside of the Matrix, however fake it maybe? Or do you want to live in the real world, no matter how bitter it maybe? I love how the film also teaches the idea of believing in ourselves and reaching your maximum potential as a human being; that idea of not relying in a lie, but in you and your abilities to confront the problems in life. Sadly, many choose to live in the fantasy world that religion offers us. I love it how the film is so truthful, it presents you with that choice. Truth? Or fantasy? The filmmakers leave it up to you.    

Religion Bashing Quote: “The answer is out there Neo. And it’s looking for you, and it will find you, if you want it to” “You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. Many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependant of the system, that they will fight to protect it”

Title: Apocalypto (2006)

Synopsis: Including Apocalypto on this list is a bit of a stretch, but I decided to include it for various reasons. Number one, I found it really interesting that this was Mel Gibson’s follow up to The Passion of the Christ (2004), a film that for all intents and purposes served to fire up people’s faith, and to fatten up Mel Gibson’s wallet too. If you ask me, he wasn’t really making The Passion of the Christ because he is a devout Christian zealot. In my opinion, same as a television evangelist, Gibson saw an opportunity to make cash, and lots of it! And that he did. Then he went and made Apocalypto, and I find it curious that he did this film because it presents us with a peaceful tribe that is being hunted down by another violent Mayan tribe in order to use them as sacrifices for their Gods. One of the members of the peaceful tribe, a young native by the name of Jaguar Paw decides to run away and protect his pregnant wife. So basically, Mel Gibson first does a film that fires up people’s faith (to the point where people fainted and even crucified themselves after seeing the film) and then goes and does a film that shows religion as a tool used by the ruling class to control the masses. In the film, the Mayan ruling class used their keen knowledge of astrology to make the masses think that their Gods where causing a solar eclipse. And that they needed to sacrifice humans to these gods to appease them by chopping off their heads and ripping out their hearts! The big question that all those who watch this film must ask themselves is: who cares about these Gods now? Nobody, that’s who. These gods disappeared with this bygone civilization, and now, does anyone care about the Gods that these Mayans worshipped and sacrificed humans to? No, because they were never real. This should make viewers questions if the gods we worship today are just as ephemeral as well.    

Religion Bashing Quote: “Fear, deep rotting fear. They were infected by it. Did you see it? Fear is a sickness. It will crawl into the soul of anyone who engages it. It has tainted your peace already. I did not raise you to see you live in fear. Strike it from your heart!”

Title: The Others (2001)

Synopsis: The Others is a film whose blueprint comes from Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961). Both films take place in an old dark house, both films are about a woman taking care of children. Both films are extremely dark and eerie. But while The Innocents addresses issues of sexual abuse and repression, The Others explores the nature of religion. In The Others Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a woman whose only concern is taking care of her two children, and teaching them about the bible. One of the most interesting parts of the film is how the kids are so inquisitive about the bible and its teachings, letting us know exactly what the film is about. Another indicative of this films religious themes is the fact that Grace is a woman who doesn’t accept death, so she turns to the comfort brought on by religion. The problem with these kids is that according to their mother, they suffer from a decease which makes them sensitive to sunlight. She doesn’t want them exposed to it because she believes it might kill them, so she has all the windows in the house closed and all the doors shut. The children live in a perpetual darkness. But, the idea that the film presents us with is, maybe the children can be exposed to the light? Maybe it won’t kill them? Maybe they are ready to be exposed to the real world! Religion is created to comfort our fears of death; the powers that be think that we can’t take the truth; that we can’t live NOT knowing; that reality is too harsh of a truth, so they’d rather keep the masses in the dark, shielded from the ‘blinding’ truth. My take on it is that while the truth of the world and how things really are might come as a bit of a shock at first, with time we can adjust to the realities of the world we live in, and move forward with our lives; we can learn to accept the big mysteries. Same way that our eyes can adjust to a blinding flash of light, adjusting to reality takes some time, but it can be done. Other wise, we’d be living in darkness all our lives, like the children in The Others.

Religion Bashing Quote: “There are things your mother doesn’t want to hear. She only believes in what she was taught. But don’t worry, sooner or later, she’ll see them and everything will be different. You’ll see, there are going to be some big surprises. There are going to be changes.”

Title: Leap of Faith (1992)

Synopsis: On this film we meet reverend Jonas Nigthingale a phony preacher who goes around town using every trick he can muster to get people to believe he has magical powers given to him by God. When he becomes stranded in a small town, he sees an opportunity to scam a couple more people, but he soon finds out he cant fool everyone all the time. Here’s another pitfall of religion: that any crazy bastard out there can use it and the teachings of the bible to take advantage of people. And since there are lot of people out there who are sad and miserable (thanks to the wonderful conditions the world is in) well, these preachers always find someone who’s willing to listen. Now, I’m not going to deny the fact that some preachers out there truly do care about people and are selfless and caring, but they are an exception. Many of them are simply out there to take your money. It’s so sickening when you know that they know religion is a lie and that they are simply using it to their advantage. Preachers such as these don’t believe in the bible themselves, they simply use it to make moolah, and lot’s of it. Ever seen a preacher asking for 10,000 dollars on television? I have and it makes me sick to the stomach. This film explores the dangers of falling for these low lives and their tricks.

Religion Bashing Quote: “A town this deep in the crapper’s got nowhere to turn to BUT God!”

Title: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Synopsis: Spock’s brother, a Vulcan by the name of  Sybok has taken the starship enterprise and it’s crew hostage in order to use the ship to get to ‘Shangri-la’, a.k.a. the Center of the Universe. His purpose? To have a one on one with the head honcho himself: God. When I saw this movie upon its first release in theaters, I was shocked beyond belief because the film was about meeting God. I went in with no expectations, and came out with my mind blown. I was shocked to see the Star Trek guys attacking the idea of religion because Sybok is a religious leader. He goes around trying to convert everyone into his way of seeing things, and he actually succeeds! Uhuru actually falls for his ideas! Some of the ideas explored in this film are the need we have to learn from our pain and our mistakes. That we actually need to make mistakes in order to learn and grow as human beings; that mistakes actually help us become better people, as opposed to the idea that many religions try to impose on their followers: the idea of trying to be perfect. As some of you might have already discovered, perfection is something that is quite unachievable in this world we live in. If you think otherwise you’ll only come face to face with frustration. Life isn’t perfect, and that’s part of what makes it so unique, such a learning experience. It also explores the idea of God, and how we sometimes choose to appoint the title of ‘God’ to something that really isn’t. Some people don’t like this Star Trek film at all, in fact, I believe trekkies loath this one, but I found it interesting because of it’s themes. Obviously Shatner (the films writer and director) had a thing or two to say about religion. Since Shatner directed the film himself, this ended up being one the funniest of all Star Trek’s.

Religion Bashing Quote: “Damn it Bones! You’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away by the wave of a magic wand. They are the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we loose them, we loose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken”

Title: The Mist (2007)

Synopsis: The Mist was one of my favorite horror films of 2007. It’s the kind of horror film that rekindles your faith in good horror films. But of course, a lot of that had to do with the talent behind it. First it was based on a Stephen King novel, and secondly, it was directed by Frank Darabont, the director behind such great films as The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999). This is the kind of horror film I miss, because it reminds me of the time when great directors made horror films, like Stanley Kubrick doing The Shinning (1980) or Robert Wise doing The Haunting (1963). So what we have here with The Mist is one of the best anti-religion films ever! A group of people are trapped inside a supermarket as a strange and dangerous Mist engulfs their town. Some people think the mist is harmless, some think it’s deadly. Who to believe? I loved how the film explores the idea of how confusing the world is; the supermarket serves as a microcosm for humanity. To me the mist symbolizes the confusion in the world and the creatures behind the mist represent all the problems out there, some are big, some are small, some are gargantuan! In other words, things are pretty messed up out there in the world; and these problems make people react in different ways. Some take a more realistic approach towards things, while others appoint religious significance to the events, like the character of Mrs. Carmody, masterfully played by Marcia Gay Harden. This character decides that the mist and the creatures within it are a punishment from God! Her ideas and preaching begin to work in the minds of everyone trapped in the supermarket, until she pretty much has everyone believe they are being attacked by demons. The film explores how fear and confusion makes us see things that aren’t there, and how easily religion can take advantage of our fears because religion runs on fear and feeds off of it. It also explores the bleakness of the non-believer, whose outlook on life is usually a bit grimmer and sadder than the hopefulness of religion. How should we react when things seem hopeless? Should we end it all? Should we wait and see if things will get better? The symbolisms run high on this film, and while the film proves to be extremely thought provoking, at the same time it’s very entertaining. Highest possible recommendation!  

Religion Bashing Quote: “As a species, we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?” 

Title: The Holy Mountain (1973)

Synopsis: Writing up a synopsis for any Alejandro Jodorowsky film is not an easy thing, but I'll give it my best. On this one we meet a character simply called 'The Thief' who comes upon a holy temple. Once in it, he meets what I can only described as a religious leader (pictured above) called 'The Alchemist'. He's called The Alchemist because he can transform excrement into gold! Trust me, that will make sense when you see the film. So anyhows, this mystical religious leader takes TheThief through nine dimensions or worlds, each representing some sort of evil in the world. Jodorowsky takes these nine different worlds and uses them to criticize and comment on the world we live. He talks about everything from war, to religion, to politics, to name it, the film covers it. But at it's center is the message of religion and how it's not at all what it seems...that it's all an illusion! If you are ever in the mood for watching a film thats non-linear with its story telling, that is extremely surreal with it's imagery and at the same time will stun you and shock you...look no further than The Holy Mountain, in my opinion Jodorowsky's masterpiece. It's not a film you will absorb upon your first viewing, no my friends, The Holy Mountain is a film that you can experience over and over again because you will not get it all on one viewing. Experience it, take it in, and hope that upon a second viewing you will understand it a little better. Jodorowsky's films are a challenge, but they are rewarding one in the end.  


Manuel Marrero said...

Truman show has a bit of bashing in it too.

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Franco Macabro said...

Really? I didnt think The Truman Show bashed religion at all...anywhere. I think it's more of a film dealing with existentialism. What is reality and what isnt?

It does touch upon christianity with the character of 'Christoff' representing Jesus, and it can be argued that it comments on christianity, but it really isn't a relgion bashing film per se, at least not in my book. Where did you see religion bashing elements on it ?

Manuel Marrero said...

I meant because Truman turns his back at the creator in the last scene showing that he choose not to follow his orders out of free i guess it counts.

Franco Macabro said...

You know, now that I think about it, I think it is a bit religion bashing, he lives a life that is an illussion, then he begins doubting, ignoring the fantasy and searching for reality until he literally comes upon the borders of his reality. It does comment on religion now that I think about it. What's interesting is that his life is supposed to be "reality t.v." when in fact it's all a lie. Thanks for commenting dude!

Another one I left out of the list was Paul (2011), a very recent religion bashing flick. I liked how they cleared the christian minds girl so that she could see the way things really are.

These scenes hit at how it the ideas of religion are all in the mind, and that the mind needs to be cleared up to be free of them.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, I thought Paul was one film where the religion bashing was, for a change, just a throwaway gag rather than the central theme. It felt a little out of place.

Again. Good list of films, it's a shame Shatner messed up Final Frontier - it had a very interesting concept (something the big screen Star Trek adventures tend to overlook in favour of spectacle).

Franco Macabro said...

I agree, they squeezed it in there, but it didnt seem to fit the rhyme scheme as they say. If they wanted to make the film about that, they should've developed it in a way where that was the films central theme...all the way.

For the most part I dig Star Trek V, I just dont like the way they ended it, it kind of completely falls apart during it's last frames...but otherwise, I love it because of the themes obviously, but also because of chemistry between these guys, who've known each other for years and years, that familiarity amongst them comes through with all the jokes and the sense of humor which I loved.

The worst of the Star Treks is still watchable in my book, so that says a lot about the series as a whole.

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

Another great list, I would've added Red State too, because I liked how Smith used horror conventions to show that so much real horror has been committed in human history in the name of religion. I also think Apocalypto is unintentional religious bashing for that same reason. I think Gibson was trying to vilify pagan religions in North America and discount them as civilizations, saying that it wasn't until the missionaries came and gave them Christianity that they became civilized. When we think of the atrocities committed after in the name of Christ upon the peoples of North and South America, it makes his movie an ironic form of religious bashing, essentially indicting the things he's trying to celebrate.

Franco Macabro said...

I'm incluiding Red State on part III of this article which by the way is currently being written! Expect it soon.

As for Apocalypto, it's true, colonizing a country included placing church's right smack in the middle of a town, to spread religion as a form of social control over the masses.

This is the way it was done in my country when the Spaniards came here and started killing the Taino indians that originally lived in the island and placing church's in the middle of every town; today, Christianity is Puerto Rico's first religion. All thanks to the christian spaniards arriving on our beaches, same as they were portrayed on Apocalypto.

Maybe Gibson was trying to say that no matter what the religion, be it christian or pagan or mayan, atrocities will always be committed in the name of 'the gods', be they the sun, or Jesus or whatever.

Same way that the mayans were chopping off heads, the christians would torture/kill those who didnt believe in their god, either way, religion did bring forth death and destruction for humanity.

This speaks a lot about intolerance in religions, when it comes down to beliefs, one belief cant stand the other. Ever.

Thanks for commenting DTVC!

venoms5 said...

You've been busy, Fran...and I've been lazy, lol. I read this recently and had to skim through it again. Nicely put together, although I'm not much into religion bashing despite not having any religious ties. I think it has its place in society, but the subject does make for some great movies!

Franco Macabro said...

Very true man, some really interesting movies. I re-watched The Wicker Man last night, it really is a strange and wonderful film, so well made. The last minutes, so gripping!

I plan on posting a part three soon, I actually managed to find more films about this...there's a lot of them out there!

Matt said...

The Invention of Lying, and Paul are my favorite religion bashing films.

Franco Macabro said...

The Invention of lying, I will have to check that one out, thanks for suggesting it Matt!


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