Monday, April 07, 2008

The City of God

Just the other day I finally watched the 2002 Academy Award nominated City of God. I knew the film was about street kids in Brazil, had good cinematography, and is supposedly a "must see film" but little else. I pondered the title, recognizing it as a reference to one of Augustine's treatises on the Christian faith.

Through watching the film, I discovered that the title was the name of the favela in which the story takes place, a neighborhood completely overridden with poverty, violence, and general lawlessness, a neighborhood described in the film as "living in hell."

Anytime I watch something like this, I am reconfronted by the existence of evil. In an academic sense, there is never any doubt in my mind that evil exists yet fortunately in my daily life, there are few occasions when I am acutely aware of it. Times when awareness is unavoidable, have confirmed my deep weariness with the relativistic thought that permeates public discourse in the West.

Watching City of God also reminded me of the great evil lurking beneath the seeming good of self-preservation. Those who seek for themselves by any means necessary are bound to lose their souls in the process despite the suggestion that if they're fit enough to survive, all is well.

During day two of my viewing, (it was too much for one sitting), I was reminded of something Jesus said:

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. [ref]
Theft-death-destruction is one of the clearest perpetual cycles of evil. The undercurrent of destruction in this film was really unsettling for me. Beyond "simple" murder, there was destruction of property, beating, maiming, rape and humiliation. The repetitively wanton killing reminded me of this:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. [ref]
The thief Jesus is speaking of is the ultimate enemy of mankind--Satan, the master purveyor of evil. The grand narrative of creation and the Revelation of John both reference the great enmity between Satan and God's creation. Every life taken from the earth is one less reflection of God's image. It is ironic then that the "City of God" in this film is one where the image of God is ruthlessly and continually stamped out.

One can only wonder what the officials of Rio de Janeiro were thinking when they relocated their city slums and dubbed them "City of God." Perhaps they were hoping the name might procure blessings from the Psalms:
Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain

It is beautiful in its loftiness,
the joy of the whole earth...

God is in her citadels;
he has shown himself to be her fortress...

As we have heard,
so have we seen
in the city of the LORD Almighty,
in the city of our God:
God makes her secure forever.
Selah [ref]
May it be so.


Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

thats one of my fav movies of all time along with a clock work orange (knock out Zed). Im from memphis. and also nice blog, do chk me out one day and let me know if i can add u to my blog roll, via comment, email or shout box

Anonymous said...

City of God is one of my favorite movies, but for another reason: Through the grace of God, Rocket survives and finds a way out. It is through his choices, which demonstrate the power of God, that he (and we) can perservere in the most dire circumstances. I also love how the movie shows the change in focus of the outlaw, from a Robin Hood to a selfish thug, reflecting the change in society from "us" to "me".
I know, it's a mindblowing movie, but there is great joy and sorrow in it, just like life.
One Love