Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw in Mortal Engines © Universal Pictures 2018. Used by permission.

Mortal Combat: The clash of values in Mortal Engines

A thousand years in the future, the high-tech world of the 21st-century is ancient history. It is of interest only to archaeologists who look for old tech – fragments left after from the 60-minute war which wiped away civilisation around the globe. Facing dwindling resources, the towns and cities have become mobile, travelling around the plains on vast caterpillar tracks in pursuit of smaller, slower towns which are sources of valuable resources as well as potential competition. This is “Municipal Darwinism” – survival of the fastest. The largest of the predator cities is London – a vast multi-deck machine with enormous metal jaws into which can be drawn prey such as the small mining town which attempts to escape at the start of this story.

Image by .brioso. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0

Seven stories we keep telling

Over the course of around twenty years of analysing films, books and other media, I have often been struck at the ways in which storytellers keep telling the same kinds of tales over and over again. That’s not to say that the narratives they construct are inevitably wearied or hackneyed; far from it. There is extraordinary diversity in the way that the themes have been explored. Yet, it remains the case that, under the surface, most if not all stories are versions of a limited number of key themes.

He who has ears to hear – The Lives of Others

Tony Watkins’s article on Florian Henckel von Donnersmark’s Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives of Others) on the transforming effect of art and love on an East German Stasi officer.

A Fresh Start – Noah

Darren Aronofsky is a visionary and ambitious film-maker who constantly grapples with big themes in his work. Noah continues in this line as it explores significant – and very relevant – tensions within humanity: between benevolent care for the environment and greedy exploitation, between duty and self-interest, and of course, between good and evil. Aronofsky, along with co-writer Ari Handel, explores these issues and others in spectacular, epic style in the context of one of humanity’s oldest stories.
This post was first published in Film & Bible Blog. © Tony Watkins 2013.

Pulled in Different Directions – Gravity (part two)

In the previous post, I explained the allusive nature of film, and the fact that films can be open to more than one way of reading them. The first way of reading Gravity is to see it as an impressive, but straightforward action movie with no deeper meanings – that is, reading it denotatively. The…

Fixing the world: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts Of The Southern Wild Day four of the Keswick Unconventional Film Club found us watching Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin’s extraordinary magic realist film, which is unlike any other I can think of. During or after our discussion yesterday evening, one person compared aspects of it to Terrence Malick’s The Tree of…

Shaming the wise

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in Philomena. © Pathé, 2013. Used by permission Day two of the Keswick Unconventional Film Club was absolutely packed for watching and discussing Philomena. Directed by Stephen Frears from a screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, it’s a film which is loved by audiences and critics alike. It won…

Relish This Remarkable Ride – About Time

Richard Curtis is almost an icon of British romantic comedy, thanks to Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999), and Love Actually (2003). About Time is very much a comedy in the Curtis style, and love is the central ingredient, but ultimately it is not so much about romantic love, as the love…

Art’s Desire: Responding to Film and Literature (part six)

This is the last in a series of six posts, which was first published as an article in Anvil journal, Volume 28 No 3 (November 2012), and is published here by kind permission of the editor. Two more aspects of responding to film and literature 4. Morality Image from iStockPhoto.com We have considered the moral…

© rpb1001, used under a Creative Commons licence.

Running film discussions for outreach

Why and how should we use film discussions in evangelism? Using films within our communication is very helpful because film is an extremely popular medium. Long-form television is arguably more popular, but film remains immensely important. Second, film is powerful because it is ‘multimodal’ – it doesn’t communicate in a single mode (images, spoken words,…

Ioan Gruffudd in Amazing Grace

Freedom Fighter: Amazing Grace

This is an old article of mine that was published on Culturewatch (which later became the Film & Bible Blog from Damaris) in 2007. I am gradually republishing many of my Culturewatch articles here, especially since the demise of Damaris Trust and its websites. What’s prompted me to republish this article on Amazing Grace today is that…

Philomena

This post was first published in Film & Bible Blog. © Tony Watkins 2013. For discussion material on this film, see Sophie Lister’s Damaris Film Blog discussion guide and the supplementary questions in the published version of this article in the Film & Bible Blog Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) has lived with a secret for…

Pulled in Different Directions – Gravity (part one)

This post has been delayed as I’ve been away and without internet access for the last week. Part two will be published in a little while.   The final day of the Keswick Unconventional Film Club was, for me at least, the most fun of the week. Having found myself in a little Twitter debate…

Sons and Fathers – Son of Rambow

Day three of the Keswick Unconventional Film Club had smaller numbers as Son of Rambow is nowhere near as well known as Blue Jasmine and Philomena. Written and directed by Garth Jennings (his directorial debut) and released in 2008, this eccentric gem of a movie is one of the best films about growing up. I’m…

Money Blues

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine; © Gravier Productions, Inc./Warner Bros., 2013. Used by permission. I’m running the Keswick Unconventional Film Club at the Keswick Convention this week. It’s the first time we’ve run it, though we did have a one-off film discussion one wet afternoon last year. I’m planning to write a brief blog each…

The Past Comes Flooding Back – The Sea

Film & Bible Blog Article The Past Comes Flooding Back Image © Independent Film Company, 2013. Used by permission. Art historian Max (Ciarán Hinds) is grieving after the recent loss of his wife, Anna (Sinéad Cusack), to cancer. Against the advice of his daughter Clare (Ruth Bradley), he goes to stay in a boarding house…

Art’s Desire: Responding to Film and Literature (part five)

This is the fifth in a series of six posts, which was first published as an article in Anvil journal, Volume 28 No 3 (November 2012), and is published here by kind permission of the editor. Celebrate the good1 Image from iStockPhoto.com If the ideas actually make sense, we need to acknowledge that fact, even…