Saturday, March 23, 2013



Because of my own recent involvement in writing a screenplay, I’ve been doing some reading about that craft. I've begun noticing how some of the notes I’ve taken make for an interesting interaction between cinema and real life.
One screenwriter said, “The question comes down to something that Jerry Zucker [director of Ghost] said to me when we first met on Ghost. He said, ‘What’s this movie about?’ I said, ‘It’s about a guy who dies and comes back to save his wife.’ He said, ‘No, no. What is it about?’ …. Movies have to have a theme – something they’re trying to say to the world, a reason for being. Not just to tell a story; it needs to have a purpose.”

Of course a movie has to have a purpose, a reason for being. But what about my life? Let’s face it: Sometimes it’s very hard to discover my life’s plot, my reason for being. In writing a screenplay I can control events, and I simply edit out anything that makes no sense or that might cloud the main story line or work counter to the purpose I have in writing the film.

Thank God that I can’t do that kind of editing with my own life! I’d drop all the scenes that don’t make sense at the moment, especially all the painful ones. Can you imagine the mess I'd make of my life's story line?


Hannibal Lecter archvillain
Ted Tally, the screenwriter of The Silence of the Lambs, was once asked why he allowed the film to end with the diabolical villain Hannibal Lecter still on the loose. Tally observed: “This is more true to the world as I know it than a sort of traditional Hollywood ending. To end the story in this kind of open way, evil is still out there. You’ve won a temporary, a partial victory. But evil is still there. That’s what gives the end of the movie its richness.”

Hmm, interesting, huh? If it’s in a movie I say “Oh, that kind of ambiguity gives the movie its richness,” but if it happens to me in real life I get angry and stop believing in God or turn to quick fixes for the pain.

So two days ago another of our students lost a parent. This time it was a mother who died of cancer (and the father is not on the scene). So ask this sophomore the question Jerry Zucker asked about that movie script: “What’s your movie about?” If I could I would want to rewrite the plot line for him so that his mom doesn’t die – maybe a miracle cure at the last moment - your “Hollywood ending.” But instead she died. Thursday night. His mom died leaving all of us trying to make some sense of it. Remember, in Zucker’s terms, “It’s not enough just to tell a story; it needs to have a purpose.” Lots of luck!


During this coming week, “Holy Week,” the church re-tells, re-lives and makes present in a mysteriously real way the story of Christ’s betrayal, suffering and death. So I ask Jerry Zucker’s question: “What’s the story about?” Many or most Christians who are acquainted with the story would say “It’s about how Jesus got arrested and was taken before the high priest and then tried before the Sanhedrin who decided that he must die because his called himself the Son of God. So they forced Pilate’s hand after having Jesus scourged, Pilate had him crucified. He was buried, but then on Easter morning the risen Lord began appearing to his disciples.”  
 Okay, but then Jerry would ask again, “No, no! What’s it about?”   The answer is actually simple: It’s about love. It’s not about scourges and thorns and nails, it’s about God’s initiating this whole series of events out of love for us, to save us from sin. Yeah, Holy Week is about love.

 Let us pray for people whose personal sufferings are so overwhelming them right now that they can’t see the plot, the meaning. Let’s also resolve that as we walk the way of the cross with Jesus this week we will take our part in the story of God’s love by spreading that love to all those that the Lord allows to cross our path this week.

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