A few weeks back, a parent of a prospective student asked me about the movie we watch as part of the program: Is this entertainment, or part of the educational content?
Both are true and, I would argue, this is true of every movie-going experience. Watching a movie is not just being entertained, but also being asked to consider a philosophy of life.
The film I showed during the first Faith and Reason Catholic College Summer Program was The Truman Show. This is a great example of a film that is both entertaining and ennobling. On one level, it is just good comedy – Jim Carrey at his finest! More deeply, though, it is a parable about the challenge of pursuing the Truth and even the need to undergo a sort of death to self in order to achieve human fulfillment.
When we watched this movie we first read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a clear inspiration for the film. In this allegory, Plato teaches us about the rewards awaiting those who undergo the long, even painful journey to Truth, as well as the fact that society generally inhibits us from undergoing such a journey. “Truman Show” in many ways captures the nature of the examined life as a journey from ignorance and selfish pleasures to Truth and Love.
How do We Discuss a Movie in a Catholic College Summer Program?
After looking at the movie as a philosophical allegory, we turn to the component of faith: Is The Truman Show a Catholic film? Part of what I like about this film is that, while there are certainly Christian elements to the film, calling the film “Catholic” requires thinking broadly about what we would mean by “Catholic Art.” Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel are certainly Catholic, but what about his secular drawings? Is it sufficient that the subject of the work of art is Catholic, or must the artist be Catholic, or both? Such questions lead to very good discussion among students, and help them think about the music they listen to and movies they watch: Is this music or film consistent with the kind of person I see myself becoming as I mature?
If you want to think more about the question of Catholic film, Michael Foley's "Four and a Half Kinds of Catholic Film" makes very helpful distinctions and is well-worth your time.