Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Modern romance, post-modern romance, and good old-fashioned romance.

Roman Holiday, Once, and Return to Me... with a little Before Sunrise thrown in to spice things up just right.

I do enjoy great romantic films. Recently, I reviewed Glen Hansard's Once, which I think is a post-modern Roman Holiday. You have to know the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn classic to see the familiar elements between the two. In both films, two people fall in love, but the love is forbidden; it will never happen. But for a brief time, the realities of their lives are suspended, and romantic fireworks ensue. Yet the clock ticks, midnight strikes, and the two couples go their separate ways.

In Roman Holiday, a princess and a news reporter are paired; in Once, it is two composer/musicians, both who have fallen out of relationships. In the former film the spark is Rome, in the latter, great music.

Post-modernism is all about subjectivity, and does not take into account objective, God-given truth. Wikipedia says, "Postmodernism refers to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, interconnectedness or interreferentiality, in a way that is often indistinguishable from a parody of itself." I think this is the result of having no standards of truth or beauty. So, even the definitions are confused.

A real romance, a godly romance, has to exist on the basis of biblical principles, not hormones, not supercharged tragic ideals, and not places and things that are isolated from eternal truth. It has to make sense beyond the subjective. Ayn Rand understood this in the core of her Romantic Manifesto. Again from Wikipedia, "At the base of her argument, Rand asserts that one cannot create art without infusing a given work with one's own value judgments and personal philosophy. Even if the artist attempts to withhold moral overtones, the work becomes tinged with a deterministic or naturalistic message. The next logical step of Rand's argument is that the audience of any particular work cannot help but come away with some sense of a philosophical message, colored by his or her own personal values, ingrained into their psyche by whatever degree of emotional impact the work holds for them."

Both Once and Holiday are infused with a longing to break the conventions of society for the sake of love. Love - as a feeling, a chemistry between two people - is the great priority of these films, and they leave the audience with the infused longing that the moral conventions of our western society might be broken so that these great relationships might bear their fruit... but what fruit? A union? A continuity of the feeling of being in love?

Richard Linklater's 1995 film Before Sunrise takes viewers over that horizon - all in 24 hours. When two travelers agree to spend 24 hours in Vienna, the sparks fly, and then... consummation... and ?... filmgoers had to wait until 2004 to get the answer. And the answer was... an agreement to go forward. But in the two film set there are no social barriers to overcome except space and time. Yet the same idea of the previous two movies remains: romance is the spark of something shared by two lovers, a Rome, a Vienna, a song.

Which brings us to a really fine romantic film, based on more objective truth. Real romance has to have the leading of the hand of God, and a purpose in his economy. Return to Me has an unmistakenly God-thing coincidence, and although there's no overt purpose in God's economy to the romance, if there is ever a sequel, it will go in that direction. The romance between the protagonists is the result of answered prayer, it is revealed, and from the prayers no less than those of an Irish Archie Bunker. Could grace ever have a better advertisement than that.

The purpose of romance isn't feeling, or sex, or at least it had better not be. It can be simple as the direction of raising godly children, or serving the Lord together in some field of Christian work. It is the direction that gives romance its backbone and the physical relationship of marriage its continuity and exclusiveness.

See the films; think about them in the light of objective truth, and see if you can sift out a worldview or two from them. It's the Lord's work to do so.