Sunday, 4 January 2009

Pause for thought

From one of my favourite worst films ever, "The Prophecy" (1995).

It's the first time I've seen it in 13 years, when it was in general cinematic release. I had just become a Catholic then, and I couldn't resist when it popped up on Sky tonight. Thirteen years a Catholic, what would I think?

The film opens with an ordination, during which Thomas Daggett (Elias Koteas) is plagued by visions of an angelic war in heaven as he prostrates himself during the ceremony. We fast forward at least a decade, and Thomas is a police inspector, soon to be caught up in the angelic war he envisioned.

What surprised me, 13 years on?

*My unease at the archangel Gabriel being unabashedly evil. It was a film. Why did the concept of an archangel being evil, lacking in mercy cause such a visceral reaction? I know what angels DO. Why the shock?

*I ADORED Lucifer. Menacing, evil to the core, funny as hell. Pun intended. Someone I'd want to cross verbal swords with.
His redeeming quality was being utterly honest about who he was and what he was about. Wouldn't want to spend eternity with him, though.

*Something below the awful execution of the film resonated. Really resonated. Part of it was needing to test my faith by turning it upside down, by really pushing it. Something about looking into the abyss. But there's more to be explored - something that attracts me to Hinduism, something about the dark, violent side of God that Christianity always denies and/or splits off from God, something that must be present in God, or it wouldn't be present in His creation. It creates a fragmented, weak God, just as the shattering of the Dark Crystal created two weak races, rather than one whole, powerful, vibrant one.

Acknowledging that, bringing it back, would make Christianity whole, robust and finally, real.

To that end, here are the quotes I want to play with:

Simon: Oh, Gabriel. When was it that you lost your grace?

Thomas Daggett: Some people lose their faith because Heaven shows them too little. But how many people lose their faith because Heaven showed them too much?

Gabriel: I'm an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why.

Thomas Daggett: Did you ever notice how in the Bible, when ever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?

Lucifer: Y'see, I'm not here to help you and the little bitch because I love you or because I care for you, but because two hells is one hell too many, and I can't have that.

Gabriel: This war is mine!
Lucifer: Your war is arrogance. That makes it evil. And that's mine.
Gabriel: Lucifer. Sitting in your basement. Sulking about your break-up with the boss. You're nothing.
Lucifer: Time to come home, Gabriel.

And perhaps the most oddly touching moment of the film:

Thomas Daggett: If you wanted to prove your side was right, Gabriel, so badly, why didn't you just ask Him? Why didn't you ask God?
Gabriel: Because He doesn't talk to me any more.

No, Gabriel. And to think you once spoke for Him.

Lucifer is right.

Time to come home. But only you can decide where.


Anonymous said...

My initial reaction to the comments on the film (which I have not seen) is mild botherment. Once again a film maker has not accurately portrayed the essential nature of Gabriel and Lucifer. Of course, there will always be something tempting about Lucifer due to his nature, but to have Gabriel speaking/acting as he does in this film is misleading. Why can't more of the good guys appear to possess humour too? After all, not all clerics are humourless or tedious, nor are they all potential comedians...

Irim said...

I actually loved the way it turned things upside down and made me think. The whole point of the film was to leave us unsettled, to shake up our beliefs about heaven and hell, angels, etc., and I thought that was a good thing. The premise of "What IF a second war in heaven? What IF an archangel defected? Have you THOUGHT about what angels REALLY do?" was excellent; the execution was poor.

I hear you, though. It would be nice to have a *good* cleric be cheeky and competent in one of these films - for that, you may have to go to "Apparitions" on BBC iplayer - Martin Shaw was fabulous.