25 September 2005
Jesus, what a documentary
A couple of weeks ago, I expressed the desire to see Brian Flemming's The God Who Wasn't There, and this being a desire that was not particularly difficult to fulfill either I could wait however long for a rental, or I could ante up $25 and get my own copy it has now come to fruition by way of Option B.
As a film, it's just this side of brilliant: despite an awful lot of talking heads, there isn't a dull moment in the 60-minute running time, and Flemming's narration pulls off the difficult task of balancing serious and snarky. The inclusion of some bloody footage from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ "used without permission," reads the credit comes with a graphic reminder that it wasn't particularly bloody: once you're past the first reel, you're hard-pressed to find two consecutive minutes without some scenes of violence. (A handy minute-by-minute index to said gore is provided on screen.) A group of revival-goers interviewed outside a Billy Graham proves to be suitably fervent, but hardly what you'd call comparison shoppers. And Flemming's visit to the Christian school in southern California where he was first, um, indoctrinated turns ugly surprisingly quickly.
As an instrument of persuasion? Me, I remain unpersuaded. Then again, I was aware of the porous history of early Christianity, and the similarities in the Gospel stories to tales of other deities; I wrote about one here many years ago. And a few bits of talk on the commentary track bordered on paranoid: yes, we do have a lot of fundamentalists, and no, it's not likely that they're going to have the atheists rounded up and shot. To no surprise, the Raving Atheist, whose voice is heard on this track, doesn't rave at all: he's as sensible in person, apparently, as he is in text form.
Still, I recommend The God Who Wasn't There, even if it wasn't a life-changing experience (a phrase I truly despise) for me: it's consistently entertaining and it asks the right questions. To quote an earlier screenwriter: "I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education." This film, I'd say, can legitimately be considered educational, though I suspect that the truest of True Believers will remain unmoved.
(Addendum: Brian Flemming has a blog.)Posted at 7:05 PM to Immaterial Witness