I always look forward to a Coen Brothers film, and their latest, a western titled True Grit (a remake of the 1969 Henry Hathaway-John Wayne original “True Grit”) is no exception. I haven’t read a lot about it but theologian J. Daniel Kirk (author of the very good Romans Unlocked: Resurrection and the Justification of God) recently put up a post about his experience of watching it.
Here’s an excerpt:
“…Dear Christians, stop making movies. Stop writing books. Go ahead. Put your cameras down. Fold up your laptops.
Now, go watch True Grit, Ladykillers, and O Brother Where Art Thou?, and learn from Joel and Ethan Coen how to tell the Christian story in popular media.
The film begins with an invitation to recognize that the biblical world is operative here: a citation of Proverbs 28:1 from the KJV, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.”
This raises all sorts of interesting questions–is there something especially apropos in this film’s particular bad guy being chased by a girl? Should we supply the second half of the proverb to epitomize our heroine, “but the righteous are bold as a lion”?
As is so often the case in Coen Brothers films, the place of God in the storyline is undergirded by the soundtrack. In this case, the music for Leaning on the Everlasting Arms provides the wordless motif. But again, are we supposed to supply the words ourselves? “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms?” Cf. the Proverb quoted above…”
You can read the rest here.
Stanley Fish, in the NY Times also offers a commentary on the film, titled Narrative and the Grace of God: The New ‘True Grit’ (spoiler – it addresses the specifics of the film so if you haven’t seen it you might not want to read it.)
“…Pieces of scripture don’t emerge from the story as a moral kernel emerges from a parable; they hang over the narrative (Mattie just sprays them), never quite touching its events and certainly not generated by them. There are no easy homiletics here, no direct line drawing from the way things seem to have turned out to the way they ultimately are. While worldly outcomes and the universe’s moral structure no doubt come together in the perspective of eternity, in the eyes of mortals they are entirely disjunct…”
And finally, as was often the case last year, it was Barry Taylor, who though not raving about this film, did alert me to it originally. On “True Grit”, he writes:
“…Like another couple of films that have come out recently, Winter's Bone and The Fighter, this one features a very smart and capable young person who overcomes a weak parent and a number of distasteful characters who stand in her way in order to see justice done. Mattie is precocious and verbally spouts legal terms at the drop of a hat. In fact, verbal jousting and gymnastics is what drives much of the film here. That may not sound like much, but it actually makes the movie spark at times and lends all the central characters a unique voice in the film that draws the viewer in….”
You can read his complete post here.
Also, I liked this Jan 30, 2010 story in the Bismark Tribune by Clay Jenkinson who took his 16-year old daughter to watch it. He expresses many of the sentiments I have for my own daughters and one of a number of reasons why I want them to grow to love great films, music and literature. Films, music and books that help them learn to see, live fully and freely, and negotiate life in all its darkness, light, and shades of grey.