Thursday, September 16, 2010

Duplicity, Real Love, and the Pure Gospel

I've often said, as I ply my trade, using examples from movies to illustrate the themes of law and gospel, that it's a lot easier to find examples of law in movies than it is to find examples of the gospel. The reason is simple: humans just don't love one another the way God loves us. That kind of the love (the unconditional kind) is simply beyond us, and wouldn't ring true if two characters in a movie behaved toward each other in that way.

But I may have found an example. The below clip, from the Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) -scripted and -directed Duplicity, has two characters speaking to each other in the language of love. The REAL language of love. Watch:

Now, don't worry about all that junk about the formula, that's just this particular film's macguffin. (For the wannabe cinephiles out there, "macguffin" is a term coined by Alfred Hitchcock to describe the object that everyone's after, the thing that sets the story in motion, but the nature of which ultimately doesn't really matter at all. Think the Maltese Falcon in The Maltese Falcon. Does the fact that it's (69-year-old SPOILER ALERT) made of tar make the movie any less exciting?) Do you feel the power of the scene?

These are two people, in a relationship, who haven't been able to trust each other since the day they met. They've just stolen a formula, worth billions, and are both pretty sure that the other is going to try to get all the money for themselves. In a situation like this, love cannot exist. But then, Julia Roberts begins to play the God role. "I know who you are. And I love you anyway." What a statement! These two sentences, when placed one after the other, have insurmountable power. Clive Owen is powerless before them. But more importantly, he is transformed by them. His distrust becomes trust. Not knowing what Roberts has, he offers the formula. And, in this wonderful scene, he tells us his reasoning. "I look at you...I can't stop looking at you...and I think, 'That woman. She knows me. And she loves me anyway.'"

This is the best non-cheesy illustration of the kind of love God has for us and its effect on us that I've ever seen. And believe me, I know that "loves me anyway" needs a serious theological fleshing-out, but the power of the statement cannot be ignored. God knows us, in all our conniving, self-centered, and jealousy-laden splendor, and loves us anyway. And this love is a creative love, creating trust where there was distrust, care for others where there was self-centeredness, and love where there was jealousy.

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