Dan and I saw The Golden Compass last week.
Surrounded by controversy, the film had sparked several discussions before it was even released;
- In the 3rd book, Pullman kills "God", maybe we shouldn't support it?
- Pullman has made his atheist beliefs extremely freely known (just google him...), maybe that's a reason not to see it?
- The books are said to be a thinly veiled attack on the Catholic church, perhaps we shouldn't go and see or support such an statement?
Personally, I think it's just literature. Literature which has been adapted for the big screen. So Pullman is an atheist. He's still a good novelist. I'm sure if we looked into the spiritual/religious backgrounds of several other authors we'd find stuff to disagree with there too.
As for the attack on the Catholic church, Pullman is reacting publically to what he sees and dislikes in the church in the world. In some ways, he's probably right and we should be challenged by it. In other ways, he's got it all wrong but we won't know that if we shut it away and refuse to watch will we?
The storyline in which Pullman kills "God" in the third book is one I don't know much about first-hand. I've not read the book (got bored mid-way through the second and gave up) so don't know what it says but from what I've heard, he presents God as a weary, tired and apathetic character who is fairly ineffectual and dies with a sense of relief. If that's who God is, Pullman does us a favour by killing him off. I believe in a God who is full of life, never sleeps or tires and is bigger and stronger than any who might oppose him. Pullman's impressions of God, and those similar, aren't doing us many favours so they might as well go.
The film itself, as Matt reviews, is weak and slow. There are plenty of opportunities for action and, apart from the bear fight, it's disappointingly flat. You could easily miss the "climactic battle" at the end if you dropped your popcorn at the wrong moment. Much of what makes the book such a good read is omitted or dumbed down. It's not a bad film as such; just not a very good one. It's worth seeing just for Nicole Kidman's part, which she carries brilliantly.
I think that if we take a "moral stand" as Christians and boycott the film we'll be missing out. With such big press and public debate about the spiritual standpoint of the film, we need to be informed and aware so that we can continue to be part of the discussion. Otherwise, we'll only be able to chip in down the pub with "Yeah but from what I heard...." and to be honest, that's not a particularly reliable opener is it?
The Golden Compass raises some excellent questions for discussion. Here are just a few that we thought of:
- Pullman introduces the idea that every person has a "soul" which is permanently with them, in the form of an animal (called a daemon). Obviously we don't have the animals but we do all have souls. Pullman's characters die if their daemon is damaged in any way. How much are our souls an intrinsic part of who we are? Can they get hurt or damaged? How? What effect does this have on us?
- Pullman's daemon system is such that children's daemons can change their form according to the situation. Adults, on the other hand, have one fixed-form daemon. This is because children are more open-minded than adults who are far more fixed in their ways of thinking and expectations of how this should be. Do we do this too? How do we restrict our spirits?
- Lyra uses the alethiometer to read the truth in situations. Would this be useful in this world? How different would the alethiometer's version be to real life?
- The animal form of the daemons is used to show a person's character - the "baddies" having creatures such as snakes and insects whilst the old, wise characters have big cats and strong animals. What would your daemon be and why?
Whilst we're on that subject of the last one, the film's official website has a fun "Find your Daemon" quiz where they allocate you an animal based on a few questions. I was quite pleased with mine*
*Don't worry, I really did only do it for fun, I don't really believe in them and I'm not about to turn atheist or Pullmanist!