Sunday, 10 June 2007

Being John Malkovich

This is not really a film about voyeurism, but as I watched it this afternoon I wondered whether I did so as a voyeur.

As a Christian I am called to this standard - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Phil 4:8). It is all too easy to fall short of this. There are, after all, so many wonderfully thought-provoking films out there, films with real quality performances, great concepts, clever execution, genuine humour...
But if the content is significantly tawdry does that invalidate the film? More precisely, does that invalidate it for me? If my conscience is active in this reasoning does that signal that, no matter the artistic merit (at least in a humanist sense), there are better things to do with my mind and time?

So, I watched Being John Malkovich, even though I knew it would trample on things I hold to be precious and cheapen by display that which is of almost inestimable relational value. I watched it 'tentatively', not willing to engage fully or embrace it (of course that would be improper, I could hear myself telling myself) but not willing to stop watching it either. I was watching it purely to see it, because it's a film highly respected by the cinema cognoscenti. I was watching myself watching it. Very much hovering, almost voyeuristically. Unlike the characters, I did not want to be John Malkovich, nor to manipulate him like a puppet, rather (I think) I both wanted and did not want to see what all the fuss was about, and feel smug for having enjoyed quality cinema, quirky cinema, not just another action movie, or whatever.

It left me admiring and also wondering whether or not I'd have been better off not watching it.
Predictable, you might say.