Every once in a long while there comes a more or less “mainstream” movie which adheres so closely to Catholic and/or Christian thought that it makes a man like me wonder if the conversion of America might still be possible.
In 1965, there was The Agony and the Ecstasy. In 1986, there was The Mission. And in 2012, there was For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada. The Agony and the Ecstasy and For Greater Glory were based on actual events and The Mission depicts an actual point in history, even if the characters are not historically real. But, even though they had bigger budgets and more widespread appeal than the typical saint movie, they were respectful of people of faith.
Just to show how “mainstream” these movies were/are, you can simply look at the actors who were in them. In For Greater Glory, we have Oscar Isaac, who is acting in the Star Wars universe now; Peter O’Toole, who has had a long career; and Andy Garcia, who has also had a long career. In The Mission, we have Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, and Liam Neeson… I do not think any of those names need an introduction. And, lastly, The Agony and the Ecstasy had Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison, who are two iconic actors, who have been in a few of the classics.
However, I am not saying that the movie I am going to be talking about is of the same weight as these other three, because The Mission and For Greater Glory dealt with the competing ideals of martyrdom versus self-defense. And The Agony and the Ecstasy is simply a classic. But this movie that I am talking about could have been an important movie in another way. It could have changed the way that modern film audiences consume media.
The film is Black Snake Moan and it did not get the recognition that it deserved.
It is true that it does depict a large man chaining a woman to a furnace. But that action needs to be put into the context of who these characters are and what their specific problems are. So I will break down the characters:
- Rae is a nymphomaniac who is unable to control herself.
- Lazarus is a God-fearing man who has been struggling with some issues himself.
The film received some negative attention for its portrayal of the aforementioned “man chaining a woman to the furnace.” Critics of the film purportedly believe in a person’s right to sexual expression and freedom. But what a good portion of the “mainstream” audiences (I feel like a hipster using the word “mainstream” so often) did not pick up on is the fact that Rae was not free.
Rae was physically and psychologically incapable of controlling herself. So she was having a considerable amount of difficulty with people using and abusing her. She had little to no control over anything in her life until after Lazarus forced her onto the right path.
I am not condoning keeping people as prisoners, even if it is for a good cause, like helping someone handle their problems. But I think that in certain instances, given that this is a story, the whole story ought to be considered.
And the ending was somewhat ambiguous as to whether the newly married couple, Rae and her husband, would be able to make it. But it was hopeful, since it showed them helping each other with their issues—Rae’s nymphomania and Ronnie’s anxiety.
If neither had met Lazarus, would they have been able to deal with their issues? Probably not.
The reason that this movie could have changed everything is that it gave modern audiences an opportunity to learn. A lot of people are caught up in what Pope Saint John Paul II called the Culture of Death. They believe that people should do what feels good and what feels right to them, subjectively. But the reaction to this movie was divided. Some critics seemingly believe that it was not trying to be serious, but more of a comedy. Some critics say that it is offensive. And others put more of an emphasis on where the film takes place than on the actual story. And the only people who seem to be talking about the actual moral of the story are people who believe the moral to be insane.
It is a missed opportunity.