Michael Johnson looks at life through a lens.
'No-one likes to be preached at any more.' So said a panel guest on a recent Radio 4 discussion. Even so, few of us are oblivious to the big questions of life and the world in which we live.
In the 1998 movie, The Truman Show, the main character Truman Burbank asks the question: 'Who am I? Was nothing real?'
This is perhaps a question that all of us ask at some point in our lives and – like other philosophical and spiritual questions – it has no easy answer. Many films, directly or indirectly, ask philosophical, spiritual, ethical or moral questions. They reflect issues concerned with the meaning and purpose of life – the kinds of questions with which philosophers and religions have grappled for centuries: Why am I here? Why is there injustice and suffering in the world? Does God exist? What is truth? Is violence ever justified? Is it possible to forgive? Do we have free will or are our actions fated?
The facts are undeniable. Millions of people flock to cathedral-like multiplex cinemas every week, where a broad variety of film services have something to say about every aspect of life and how we live it. They can't all be lining up primarily for the communion buckets of popcorn and Pepsi! Perhaps the main feature offers something more lasting in value.
Movies matter. Why? Because they focus some of our experiences of life through a lens.
In 1995's Dead Man Walking, the true story of a death row convict reconciling himself to the stark reality of his life, his actions plays out a deep inward journey – one which few of us will ever want or be able to explore through our own life experiences. By allowing us to travel along with the main characters, the film makes for viewing that is at once compelling, enlightening and inspiring.
Cinema clubs used as fresh expressions of church are simply an opportunity to watch films carefully chosen for their spiritual, ethical or moral themes, perhaps to provoke discussion, certainly to provoke thought and self-reflection. They are best screened in local venues where that kind of discussion can follow easily after the credits scroll. Lubricate the free flow of opinions and ideas with something from the bar (or café at youth screenings). You might choose to come with friends. Or you might meet people you don't know and find they are asking some of the same questions.