bond at fifty

I used to teach a course on movies which I called Windows and Mirrors. The idea being that movies can open up the critical area of worldview by providing a window on the world - and often an uncomfortable mirror for ourselves as well.

One of my favourite exercises was to play with the same storyline in the hands of different directors spread over successive generations, or in different contexts. Directors are lauded for being so creative - and yet often they are merely reflecting the world in which they live. To study and compare their work with the same storyline, but spread over the different generations - or contexts - can be so revealing about worldviews at work.

The example I have used the most is the Robin Hood storyline (which I blogged about here, some years ago). Compare the Errol Flynn movie (from the 1930s) with the the Kevin Costner movie (from the early 90s) - and then with the BBC series from a few years ago (focusing on the 'same' scene in each movie) - and you have a handle on the successive worldviews which shaped my parents, myself and my children. I see Bollywood's Bride and Prejudice is on TV tonight. Laying it alongside the Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice is another exercise worth doing, scene-by-scene.

There are so many possibilities. Romeo & Juliet in the hands of different directors - from Zefferelli to Luhrman - is where I started with all this myself. Most of the traditional Disney storylines have been handled in different ways over the years and work well ...

... and then there is "Bond ... James Bond". With the release of Skyfall, the opportunities for this kind of reflection are stunning. I wish I was still teaching courses on movies and worldview - but I leave on holiday in a few hours, so this will be brief.

For starters, take the character of Bond himself. He has gone from being invulnerable to vulnerable, from the untouchable hero to the touchable human. It reminds me of the way Nike changed its Michael Jordan advertising over the years. At the start it was 'Be Like Mike' and then, as Jordan's heroics waned and his flying faltered, Nike went with a different message: 'Mike's Like Us'. Subtle - but both approaches worked for Nike.

Or, consider the setting in which the great evil takes place in Bond movies. No longer exotic locations here, there and everywhere as we travel with dizzying speed through the movie. So much of Skyfall takes place in England and Scotland. Interesting. What about the transition in the nature of the evil, as the director connects with the audience's greatest fears? Or, what about the person who is the embodiment of evil in a given film - be it their appearance, their accent, their origins, their companions etc?

Or, consider the plot. Skyfall is so linear and clear and simple, and so far from the diffuse and ambiguous plotlines with which we have become accustomed. Why, I wonder? Or, what about the other characters? Replacing the elderly and eccentric Q with a young techno-geek? Reintroducing Moneypenny? Killing off M? Hmm...

Or, the oft-mentioned 'Bond women'. Early on they were merely overly-sexualised, de-humanised ornaments adorning the movie here and there, coming and going from the screen. And yes, this has been for far longer than just 'early on'! But then there were a few movies where they were either villains, or exerted power and instilled fear. Interesting. When was that, I wonder? But what about Skyfall - and the role women play in it? I am sure there are thousands of words written on this somewhere - but is another shift taking place? If so, what is it?

The limited work I have done with movies over the years point me in the direction of affirming that there is more than the creative whims of a Director at work here. Time will reveal that the Director, in the visible movie, is reflecting some deeper 'invisibles' going on in the culture. To ask what those are and why they are present is helpful. I find it helps me develop in my understanding of the world in which I live, the same world which both the Bond Director is reflecting and in which the Living God is missionising.

nice chatting



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