Friday, May 6, 2011

More Top Films: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is less adventure story than it is a cautionary tale. Early on, when Dobbs and Curtin stay in a cheap shelter for the night, they meet the old man, Howard. In a short four minutes, the whole summary of events to come and the downfall of the men is unwittingly prophesied as he shares his experiences and philosophy. “I know what gold does to men’s souls,” he says, and it is not a good thing.

B. Traven, the author of the book on which this movie was based, was an anarchist socialist who hated capitalism, but he also saw the dangerous side of materialism and capitalism. You don’t need to go to his extremes to see the dangerous allure of money and greed, and this story is a perfect study of the downfall that men can experience when they allow mammon to become their god.

This is an appropriate story for our current culture. Think about it. Is there any aspect left of life which does not involve advertizing? Everything in our culture today involves buying and selling. Radio and newspaper content is just filler for the advertizing. Product placement has overtaken movies and television. Our growing secondary lives on the world-wide-web are sponsored and revolve more and more around selling and promoting our brands. Everything we do involves this branding approach. We no longer try to connect to others, we try to create catchy concepts that can be packaged, promoted and sold.

Even in Christian circles, where the Biblical teaching warns against materialism, things have gone wrong. Evangelicals have bought into the gospel of the American Dream where God desires for His people to have all their needs and wishes met and where prosperity is a sign of Hid blessing. Even the people pushing for believers to live on less look to money as the answer. We buy into the idea that the money of the western church could be used to end poverty, starvation and illness, but we forget that money—like gold—is just a concept. It is the people wielding the money that corrupt the system through sin and greed. Even the best intentions can be corrupted when money enters the equation.

1 comment:

  1. I like your statement: "This story is a perfect study of the downfall that men can experience when they allow mammon to become their god." The love of gold can turn a man into a dragon. I wrote a short post on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre called "Four Factors in Paranoia." If you would like to read it, here is the link:


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