Sunday, December 04, 2005

Greatest Movie Never Made

I've been thinking that a movie version of St. Augustine's Confessions would be fantastic - a blend of the Passion of the Christ and Gladiator. Apparently, I'm not alone. Pope JPII apparently asked Gerard Depardieu to play St. Augustine in a movie. I think St. Augustine's story has the potential to be the best movie and the worst movie ever, at the same time. If the Christian movie studios got ahold of the idea it would come out as an allagory about the moral decay of the Roman empire and Augustine's moral redemption. The Biblicism would be palpable; I can only imagine the special effects incorporated into the "Take and Read" experience - glowing SuperBible anyone? It would also make Augustine's sin all about sex and nothing else. If the Catholics somehow make the movie on their own it would probably come out as overly mystical and self-agrandizing. If the "secular" studios got it, it would portray the sex and self-serving of his youth as normative and present his conversion as kind of tragedy.

The trick would be this: Have the audience experience the "lust of the eyes" with him, to not be about to look away from the circuses either. It would have to get the person to the point that they were overstimulated and disgusted at it, which would be next to impossible for a modern audience. It would have to portray Manichaeism in such a way that they were truly intruguing and appealed the the intellect. Augustine was just the kind of sinner that a modern audience could identify with (sex, pride, mild theft of fruit, esoteric spirituality). Then, how to make it clear that his conversion was the work of God, and not the result of peer pressure combined with a semi-mystical experience? We are all converted because Jesus loves us and he has a wonderful plan for our lives, what was Augustine's motivation?

Can you imagine a scene of Augustine's naked baptism after his catechumenate at which he and Ambrose spontaneously compose the Te Deum? Does the American Church even have mental categories to accomodate this?

From the article I linked comes this quote, probably the worst brief bibliography I've ever seen:

St. Augustine, an intellectual mystic and doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, was born in Algeria in 354. Although raised a Christian, he renounced his faith as a young man and explored life's carnal pleasures.
After a long spiritual conflict between the sacred and the profane, he was brought back to the faith by St. Jerome. Augustine eventually became a bishop, wrote about his spiritual struggle in The Confessions, and died in 430.
By the way, there seem to be 37 English tranlations of the Confessions. I've read the one by the Catholic nun, Maria Boulding. It was a smoother read than the two versions that are available in the public domain, namely the Outler (1955) and Pusey (1838). Haven't found a good site that compares the merits of the versions, but there are indeed plenty.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you please define what you mean when you use the word "Biblicism" as precisely as you possibly can? I hear it bandied about quite a bit and never entirely sure what people intend when they use it. Thanks.

Paul T. McCain

2:26 PM  
Blogger Kletos Sumboulos said...

Reverend McCain,
I regret that I used this neologism, since I don't consider myself an expert in its usage. By "Biblicism" I meant the practice of using the Bible as an idol. Those who condemn "tradition" frequently don't question the bible translation that they are holding in their hands. Scripture translation is interpretive, therefore to read an English translation is to trust in a tradition.
Wikipedia uses the following definition:
Biblicism is a description of notable and attentive concern for biblical text. It is commonly used as a pejorative, even in religion circles to denote a tendency to elevate minutiae over theme. Outside of religious circles, the connotation tends to be even more negative, and reflects a divide between those who place great trust in Biblical texts as authoritative, and those who do not. Biblicism has taken on many forms of variance. Some adhere to a partial bibiclist role, meaning some of the Bible can be taken, and some remain. This role is predominant among gnostic views. Others, including many mainline Christian denominations, take on a Biblicist view, in that, they take the Bible as a whole, though interpretations of the Bible differ.

So maybe I meant "Bibliolatry"

10:45 PM  

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