By the way, one of the films I recently really enjoyed — Don’t Come Knocking — contains the following content, listed for your convenience by the “Christian reviewer”* at Movieguide:

Content:

  • Very strong humanist, anti-biblical worldview with immoral characters who are driven by their broken souls to make life decisions, as well as light Christian elements can be seen by discerning viewers that shows the fruitlessness and emptiness of immoral decisions and God-less lifestyles;24 obscenities (17 of which are “f” words) and three profanities;
  • mild violence includes boyfriend pushing his girlfriend out of his way two or three times and father and son pushing and slapping at each other, as well as son going on a rage and throwing all of his furniture out of his apartment into the middle of the street;
  • one scene of implied fornication showing unmarried couple in bed together the morning after;
  • naturalistic upper male nudity and unmarried couple in bed is briefly shown in their underwear, as well as female cleavage and clothed backside shots;
  • strong alcohol and drug use includes a movie star’s trailer filled with empty bottles,
  • drunkenness depicted,
  • man is arrested for public drunkenness,
  • several scenes of people drinking at various bars, etc;
  • cigarette and cigar smoking implied and depicted,
  • and movie star’s trailer filled with various drug paraphernalia;
  • and, miscellaneous immorality includes actor fleeing the set and skipping out on his contractual obligation,
  • man steals a horse,
  • lying,
  • and depicted gambling in casinos.

Oh, where to begin?

Why not at the beginning? That first item is so, so wrong. The film does not have a “very strong humanist, anti-biblical worldview.”

If you watch Don’t Come Knocking, you’ll find that it portrays characters who, like so many people in the real world, making foolish and selfish decisions, and behave recklessly. Do their actions bring about consequences? Yes. Do these characters begin to learn hard lessons? Yes. It’s everyday life in God’s world. This might as well be a parable.

How would a Movieguide reviewer catalog the “content” of the story of The Prodigal Son, I wonder?

The slow pace, the measured conversations, the quiet open spaces of the film… they give you room to think for yourself about what’s happening, how these characters have been influenced by American mythology; about the difference between modern big-city life and life in the great wide open; about fathers and sons; about the importance of family; about simple generosity; about temptation and weakness; about the passing of time. The film invites you to reflect not only on the action and dialogue, but on the meaning of the landscape, the way a man’s journey through a town reflects the choices he has made in his life, the way that grace and redemption are offered to this man without his asking for them.

Must a work of art serve up everything, so we don’t have to think about what we’re watching?  If we conclude that this film is “abhorrent” and “boring trash,” then we would be lost in a museum, for we would demonstrating no powers of interpretation, no ability to look at imagery and ponder what things mean in relationship to one another. In regards to Don’t Come Knocking, Movieguide’s reviewer merely sees evidence of sin in the world portrayed on the screen, and he recoils in disgust, condemning the entire affair. It’s the equivalent of judging The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as “abhorrent” because of the scene in which Edmund eats Turkish Delight. What would happen to the Bible if we judged any story portraying sin as “abhorrent”?

It is the work of the discerning moviegoer to ask, “Is the movie showing me something about sin, or encouraging me to sin?” Don’t Come Knocking is clearly a story about the wages of sin.

How is that kind of response related to the way Christ responded to the spectacle of a broken, sinful world? Did he look at a city and see only offensive content, write it off as “trash,” and walk away? Or did he see beauty in those lost souls and their longing? Did he venture in, consider them and minister to them? Did he love them?

There are no such things as “Christian elements” in this film… at least according to the Movieguide reviewer’s idea of “Christian elements.”

The film is a tongue-in-cheek depiction of life in America today, where the artificial culture we’ve developed with Hollywood’s help clashes with the simple and authentic human relationships we can enjoy with each other and with creation. Everything here is quietly meditative and honest. People are behaving in ways that show they’re severely messed up, but longing for healing. I don’t see how you can extract “Christian elements” from something that seems so true throughout. It’s all emanating beauty and truth. It’s all giving affirmations of Christ’s teaching.

Is Don’t Come Knocking the best film that Wim Wenders has directed? This question is open for debate. Personally, I don’t think so. Wenders’ exploratory storytelling style cultivates some memorable moments here, and some interesting characters, but there are a few events that seemed a little too convenient, a little too contrived. But for people who like to think about what they’re watching, there are plenty of pleasures and rewards to be found here, as in Broken Flowers.

Isn’t it interesting that when Movieguide lists “content,” all the reviewer sees is darkness?

Here are a few things I would qualify as “Content”:

  • A mother extends grace and love and generosity to her prodigal son.
  • A mother greets a disgruntled investigator and graciously offers him milk and cookies.
  • A disillusioned movie star longs for the family he might have had, if he had been responsible.
  • A broken-hearted father sits down on a couch in the middle of the street in Butte, Montana, and considers his life, his sins, his longings, watching time pass, beginning to understand what he has been missing.
  • A man from the city has his first bewildering encounter with silence.
  • A girl whose life is missing a big piece finds her patient vigilance rewarded.
  • Like a holy fool in a Kurosawa film, a reckless punk rock girl taunts her boyfriend as he skirts the edges of a painful truth.
  • As promised, sins find characters out.

And that’s just for starters…

I’d also include the sacred beauty of Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard, because looking at their beautifully time-sculpted faces, my belief in God is strengthened.

P.S.

By the way, if I agree with anything at all in the Movieguide review it is this: Beware of “naturalistic upper male nudity.”

Now that’s what I call “content”!!

*How dare I refer to the reviewer as a “Christian movie reviewer,” putting quotes around it as though I question their salvation?

Well, I’m not going to judge whether the reviewer is a Christian or not.

But my understanding of the responsibility of a “Christian movie reviewer” is that he should be primarily concerned with what is excellent, what is worthy of praise… and that he should consider what the story says, and whether it moves us toward a view of our lives as being part of a grand design, or if it moves us toward despair and chaos.

I don’t see anything in the Movieguide review that is evidence of a “Christian perspective,” except some claims to be associated with Christianity. What I see is condemnation, and derogatory language about storytelling that was crafted and filmed by Wim Wenders. And Wenders is, by the way… a Christian.

Tagged: Criticism is an Art., Don’t Come Knocking, Movieguide, Ted Baehr, Wim Wenders

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