Saturday, 25 September 2010

the book of eli

That someone made this film. Even if we finally see the Bible taking its place alongside other apparently legitimate holy texts and the Da Vinci Code, this film is still a long study on a particular interest in the Bible. We can explain this away by the Bible Belt's paying cinema audience? Maybe, or perhaps because we are all looking to find a power of ideas in a text, any text? Or because we want to be affirmed in our defining ourselves by fear of those who justify violence by zeal for a text? Either way, this film was made.

Preppers and scripture memorisation. The printing press and end of faith. That there is technology we take for granted in not committing to memory those histories and philosophies on which we predicate our lives is interesting - the filmic device of the post-apocalypse gives emphasis to those things we take for granted before an epic technological failure, and here, the social-moral collapse is framed by illiteracy and the apparent destruction of Bibles. Can we say Christianity is dependently technological? Are we ready for such a collapse?

Interpretation. We still hold a nostalgic sympathy for the idea that a text can possess saving truth, however, the film offers little by way of help for interpretation. Eli's hermeneutic consists in a mystical experience of God and carrying a sharp sword. A gentle affirmation of just war, a gentle poke relativising the missional confidences of those who claim the precedence of their interpretation?

Preaching and race. If Eli had been white, what would change? It is racist to say that one distrusts white religious characters more than black? What structure of stereotypes gives Eli currency? I can think of Samuel L. Jackson's Ezekiel-misquoting character in Pulp Fiction, which possibly doesn't help this question, but I would be interested to discuss what other plausible heroes have been shown using the bible on film, and on what basis they are popularly considered legitimate.

Blindness and the end of order. As more bluntly shown in Blindness, could we discuss the device as used in House of Flying Daggers and King Lear. What can we affirm in Eli's blind faith? Will we yet wish we were blind, both for the horror of the visual world and, following collapse, a better dependence on such hopes as are unseen?

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