Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Top Ten Films: Part Three

Chariots of Fire can be a difficult film to watch. The story telling techniques used can be hard to follow. Flashbacks and cuts between parallel storylines occur throughout. Hugh Hudson used some highly stylized techniques to shoot the races. There are long delays at the start of every race with multiple cuts of motionless runners waiting for the gunshot, and the races are followed by multiple replays of the race at varying speeds. However, all of that effectively reproduces the runner’s experience of the race: from the unending anticipation of the start to the reliving of the race after it is over.

This is also not a story of action, but conviction. The conflicts played out in the film do not arise from outside forces coming against the protagonists, but from within themselves. Abrahams, the Jew, spends the whole movie trying to overcome society’s view of him when it is his own view of himself that needs changing. Liddell, the Christian missionary, has to decide if he is really trying to glorify God with his running as he keeps telling everyone, or if he is in the race for his own Olympic glory.

In the end, perhaps that is why this film fails to find an audience even among Christians. They wrongly see it as a film demanding legalism. This is not the case at all. The issue for Liddell is not really about running on Sunday. It is about selling out. People are always doing what they want and telling themselves they are doing it for God. They have “committed” themselves to God. Instead, God asks that people surrender to Him and do with their lives what He wants. For Liddell that meant ultimately leaving a high profile racing career for a life (and death) doing missions in China.

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