During the last week I’ve been gripped by the two most critically acclaimed of this year’s Oscar nominees, There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men.
Seeing these powerful films back to back is an interesting experience. Interesting and deeply challenging.
There are important differences between the two films: the first has a powerful score, the second virtually no soundtrack whatsoever; the first is a character study, the second is in large part a gripping thriller; the first has a striking opening section with virtually no dialogue, as the second heads toward its ending it leaves action behind in favour of reflective dialogue.
What struck me most though were the similarities. Both films are dominated by superbly realised, deeply menacing villains; both are brutally violent; both have unconventional endings; both are concerned with father-son relationships. But above all both are profoundly pessimistic.
In No country Tommy Lee Jones’s weary sheriff despairs of a world gone wicked as he simultaneously desires and fears judgement on his own life. Blood is an almost Shakespearean tragedy painting a bleak picture of the destructive power of misanthropic greed. The central character hopes to become rich enough to be able to live without other people. “No man is an island” and in the process of becoming truly insular by destroying all who are close to him, Daniel Day Lewis’s ruthless oil man is finally stripped of the last vestiges of humanity.
If this is how our contemporaries see the world, they are desperately in need of hope. In the year of a co-ordinated mission initiative under the banner of Hope 08 is the church capable of painting an authentically optimistic alternative vision? Here’s hoping.