Saturday, December 20, 2008

How Subtle is Too Subtle?

I told you last time I'm always playing catch-up. I know you probably heard all about the movie Fireproof a couple of months ago, but that was during my blogging break, so I'm just getting around to it now.

In case you haven't heard, Fireproof is the second movie (after Facing the Giants) produced by a church in Georgia. I believe it's called Sherwood Baptist in Albany, but I've just spent far too much time trying to track down that nugget of information with my computer freezing up and refusing to cooperate, so I'll take a guess and move on. Anyway, I liked Facing the Giants but thought Fireproof was better. Not just because they had a "real" actor this time around, the highly likeable Kirk Cameron, but also because this movie seemed more realistic. Facing the Giants made you feel good, but to me things worked out a little too neatly for everyone, leaving the impression that if you love God, all your dreams will come true and you will live happily ever after.

Fireproof shows more of a real-life struggle as a fireman (Cameron, playing Caleb Holt) makes a decision to try to save his marriage, when his wife is ready to file for divorce. The intriguing part is that Caleb initially is no more enthusiastic about his marriage than his wife is. There are hurt feelings on both sides. It's hard, and they want to quit. Caleb agrees to try a 40-day "Love Dare" to please his father, which involves doing selfless things for his wife and his marriage each of the forty days.

And for the entire period, his wife (Catherine) rejects all his overtures. She's suspicious of his motives, or doesn't even notice what he's done. At the same time this is going on, Caleb's father is trying to get Caleb to work on his own spiritual problems and to accept Christ. But Caleb isn't interested. In one of the more powerful scenes, Caleb and his dad go for a walk by a lake and they come to an area that has a large wooden cross and benches in front of it. Caleb says youth retreats were once held there. He rages to his father about Catherine's bad attitude and says he's sick of the whole thing and ready for divorce. He says something like, "How can you keep loving someone who rejects you over and over?" Dad quietly puts his hand on the cross and looks Caleb right in the eye. Caleb gets it. So did I. Jesus still loves him, even though he rejects his Savior over and over.

The writer in me was screaming, "Wonderful! Gives me shivers! Please don't explain it and ruin the moment."

But they did. Caleb's dad proceeded to explain in great detail the conclusion his simple gesture had already made. And to me, the moment was watered down. Powerful became preachy.

That's how it came across to me, anyhow. I'm sure the makers of the movie, though, wanted to make sure that the audience got the gospel message. So what do you writers, readers, and movie-goers think? Should we spell everything out to make sure everyone "gets it"? Or go for the powerful, artistic moment and hope the symbols carry the message?

One more sidenote about Fireproof. There was a great song in the soundtrack that could be the theme song of this blog. It's called "While I'm Waiting," by John Waller. It's about the pain and difficulty of waiting for the Lord to act, and how we should behave in the meantime. I'll close with a little sample:

I will move ahead, bold and confident,
Taking every step in obedience.
While I'm waiting
I will serve You. . .
I'll be running the race,
Even while I wait.