Friday, February 6, 2015

"Paranoid Park" (2007)

Here in Dresden, we have a monthly series of events where we look at the messages and themes in film, and see how they relate to the biblical worldview. For our latest, my friend P. Mathes did a great job having us look at the themes from “Paranoid Park,” Gus Van Sant’s 2007 film about a teen skate boarder named Alex and a terrible mistake he is trying to hide.

“Paranoid Park” deals with the same sort of themes that all movies tend to elaborate: evil, sin, the bad stuff in life. There aren’t many secular artists focused on grace and redemption, the divine or certainly not a biblical understanding of love. A few, but not many. What is interesting about this story is the take that it has on sin and guilt.

At first glance, we have more of the same old same old attitude towards sin. It is a mistake, an accident. Our character did not intend to commit evil. Can you even call it that when there is no intent? However, the guilt that Alex feels is the dominant theme in this story. Of course what Alex did was evil, even if he did not have evil intent when he acted. And, Alex isn’t just dealing with guilt, but also the shame and fear he is avoiding by trying to hide his guilt.

This is an art-house film, and it isn’t the sort of thing you sit down to watch for entertainment. But because of that, there is some very interesting storytelling and symbolism going on in places. There is a fascinating scene after the accident occurs where Alex is showering. The camera holds a seemingly interminable shot of his head as the water pours over him. The light shifts in a way the projects his realization of guilt, and the soundtrack is simply the ambient sound of nature. Perhaps a garden.

The proposed solution for Alex’s guilt is confession. He is encouraged to write a letter detailing what he has done. However, the psychological assumption is that that act will suffice. He burns the letter after he reads it. His confession was not made to anyone in particular, or really even at all. The film leaves the outcome of the story ambiguous. But we are pretty clear in the end that Alex’s guilt remains. He is a broken boy in need of healing. And the film and the attitude it represents has nothing to offer.

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