Saturday, June 12, 2010

Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion: About "The Messenger"

I’d like to recommend a movie Roger Ebert called, “shallow, dumb, boring, and endless:” Luc Besson’s 1999 film based on Joan of Arc, The Messenger. It grossed a mere 14 million dollars that year, finishing in the top 100 films of the year by an eyelash--it was 100th.

It’s the story of the French teenager who led France to victory over England at Orleans in the 15th century. Joan (Milla Jovovich) was hailed as a visionary, followed by thousands, posed a political problem, and was finally handled over to ecclesial authorities who found her guilty of heresy and burned her at the stake. She died at 19.

Besson, as far as I am aware, is not a believer. His storytelling includes horrific violence in the battle scenes, and a rape sequence early in the film that is nothing short of disgusting. It earned its R rating. At two and a half hours it represents a serious investment of time.

Why would anyone recommend this movie?

This film is about the dangerous balance between passion for God and human zeal. The viewer is drawn into her passion in the opening hour of the story, only to wonder whether Joan has indeed heard the voice of God or not. In the final thirty minutes of the film she is alone in her cell. She will speak to no one. She is visited by a spectral figure (Dustin Hoffman). Is he an angel? The Holy Spirit? Her conscience? Her imagination?

Deserted by those who hailed her, Joan is left to consider whether she has ever heard God at all. At the edge of madness she is forced to re-consider her motives and actions, and eventually goes to the stake in peace.

For any follower of Jesus who believes he or she is willing to follow God at any price, this movie is a sobering faith-check. In my opinion you should watch this movie at your peril.

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