It’s About Honor
 
Each film puts the primary characters’ focus on acting honorably in a difficult situation.  All respond differently.  But their decision process defines their very identities.
 
“As It Is In Heaven” (“Sa som i himmelen”) :  A three-year-old Swedish film that is just now landing in America .  Daniel (Michael Nyqvist), once a child prodigy violinist derailed by family tragedy, is now an internationally-renowned orchestral conductor whose health is failing badly.  Having nothing in his life other than his music, he decides to abandon his world travels in order to return to his little hometown village, where there is nobody left who remembers him.  He’s led such a sheltered life that he doesn’t even know how to ride a bicycle.  But professional inactivity soon bores him.  He finds a struggling little church choir desperately in need of leadership, and enlivens them with his unorthodox methods, his passion for music, and his high expectations for them.  His success invokes the jealousy of the mirthless parish priest, who maneuvers the Council into firing him.  So he and his choir all leave the church and prepare to go on their concert tour as an independent civic chorus.  A chilling theological debate in the manse, where the Pastor’s wife, a loyal member of the choir, is yelling at him that there is no need for repentance, because there is no sin, as a loving God wouldn’t condemn on the one hand and offer redemption on the other.  He says that’s blasphemy.  She says the Church represents its teachings as God’s own, but what if they aren’t?  She longs for his love but receives only his righteous indignation, along with his desperate devotion to his demanding mistress, his holy office.  Daniel, meanwhile, becomes a Christ-figure, martyred by the arrogant Pharisees but mourned by the true believers because of his demanding love and his transcendent gentleness.
 
“Made Of Honor”:  Tom (Patrick Dempsey) is a confirmed bachelor and man-about town whose best friend, Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), works at the art museum.  She takes a temporary assignment in Scotland , where she meets the man of her dreams, a Duke, no less, who lives on a vast rolling estate, and gallantly proposes to her before her return.  Meanwhile, Tom, missing Hannah terribly, finally decides he really does love her, after all.  But is it too late now?  And would his being her “maid of honor” at her wedding give him the opportunity to win her over?  And as viewers, do we really want to root for the big wedding to be derailed?  Supposedly a romantic comedy, but the role models leave something to be desired, notably their honor.
 
“Priceless” (“Hors de prix”):  a two-year-old Belgian film just now washing up on American shores.  Irene (Audrey Tautou, who is actually French) is a gold-digger who can’t keep her eye on the prize, namely fat old wealthy men who will provide for her, because, despite her resolve to deceive them about her devotion, her attention keeps wandering toward Jean (Gad Elmaleh, who is actually Moroccan), who imitates her by becoming a gigolo/paramour himself, only to find that he can’t stop thinking about her, either.  We want to root for them to ride off into the sunset together on their motor scooter, but they are liars and manipulators, always running a con.  Can they learn to do the right thing for each other?
 
“Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay”:  a raunchy comedy/satire that actually has more heart than it advertises.  Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) are pot-smoking buddies who decide to vacation together in Amsterdam .  But on the flight they are accused of being terrorists, and sent to Guantanamo Bay .  They manage to escape, hitch a ride on a slow boat from Cuba to Florida , and find themselves running from the Klan in Alabama .  Along the way, their sly commentary on the racism of anti-terrorism mingles with alarming nudity (a bottomless pool party?), constant sexual references, and a giggly encounter with a pot-smoking President Bush at his ranch in Crawford , Texas .  Right.  Kumar, like Tom in “Made Of Honor,” is also trying to prevent his lost love (Danneel Harris) from making a big mistake by marrying someone else.  In between the gratuitous visual and verbal assaults, there is something important here about loyalty to those you love, and being true to yourself.
 
“Ironman”:  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a wealthy industrialist whose company specializes in manufacturing high-tech weapons.  On a promotional junket, he’s captured by terrorists, where he discovers first-hand how those weapons are winding up in the wrong hands, and how he is actually fostering violence.  Under the guise of assisting his captors, he clandestinely fashions a suit of protective armor for himself, so he can make his escape.  Back home, he then refines the robotics and self-propulsion mechanisms to become Ironman, defender of the weak and helpless.  Alas, even superheroes have enemies.  But his conversion experience is remarkable for the way it transformed his values.  Oh, and now he, too, is awakened to the love he feels for the one woman (Gwenyth Paltrow) who has been beside him all along…
 
Questions for Discussion:
1)      When have you ignored love, and what made you awaken to it?
2)       When have you chosen to do the honorable thing rather than the profitable thing?
3)      When has your passion exceeded your common sense?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas