Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Life in the River

Watching A River Runs Through It for the first time this evening, I was struck by the idea of finding meaning in the mundane in Robert Redford's Oscar winning film.

The relative pace of the film left me waiting for "something" to happen - I found myself wondering when the "event" was about to take place that would upset the serene tone and pace of the film's beautiful Montana backdrop.

The fact is that, although there is action and tragedy in the film (no spoilers here), much of the plot focuses on the everyday and the ordinary. In this sense, the film is realistic, and a welcome change from the usual diet of bombs, car chases and aliens.

What sets the film apart, though, is the way that the mundane is infused with meaning. Unlike the writings of Camus, for instance, where the ordinary is a motif for the absurd, the semi-autobiographical novella by American professor Norman Maclean which is the basis for the 1992 film reflects a worldview that assumes that life's everyday events are rich in meaning.

This is a worldview consistent with the Christian faith of Maclean's father in real life (and in the film), who was a church minister. The Biblical mind assumes that, since God is creator and Lord of all, that the whole of life is to be lived for the glory of God, and derives its meaning from that orientation.

The motif of the river that flows through the film also resonates with Biblical imagery:

"Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'"

John 7:37-39

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