April 4, 2020 – Day Two
I’ve been seeing a lot of Facebook or Internet challenges online. I guess it is a way for people to pass some time as they grow increasingly bored with the self-imposed confinement.
So I decided to come up with a challenge of my own. The following was posted on my personal facebook page earlier today.
As we continue to obey our stay at home orders, one thing that is sure to increase (other than our waistline) is the amount of TV we will be watching. This leads me to issue a little Internet challenge.
People may not know this but I spent 10 years (1998 – 2008) as “the Christian Critic”. Under the name Michael Elliott, I published reviews of the films of Hollywood and embedded in each review was a biblical parable. I used some element of the film to explain or illustrate a biblical principle. I get that we all want a little entertainment escape from what is happening in the world around us. But, in my view, we always need to embrace the spiritual truths of God that can comfort and embolden us in times of trouble. One doesn’t necessarily preclude the other.
While I was writing these reviews, I often explained the purpose of them by saying, “Art reflects life; but God created life.” Any art form, by this definition, has to include elements of God’s truths – whether inserted intentionally or unintentionally. It just requires us to look a little deeper and reflect a little more while watching them.
It all started one day as I was watching The Man in the Iron Mask with Leonardo Dicaprio back in 1998. While watching, I suddenly became acutely aware of some parallels between the movie and a teaching I recently gave in our home Bible fellowship. I wrote down my thoughts and vowed that going forward, I would try to find a biblical illustration in every film I watched. As it turns out I was always able to find them – over 1,000 films in a 10 year period. Perhaps it was because I started to actively look for them. So I challenge you to do the same. Enjoy the films you watch… but then also use that time to reflect on God’s Word. Trust me, it’s a win-win.
Here’s the first review I ever wrote back in 1998:
The Man in the Iron Mask – review by Michael Elliott. Dec 6, 1998
Good vs. evil is the classic formula for conflict in movies as well as in life. This time, in The Man in the Iron Mask by writer/director Randall Wallace, those fighting on the side of good are the famous harbingers of justice, heroism, and duty: The Three Musketeers. Albeit they are a bit older, larger around the middle, and more disillusioned with life. Fighting against them, on the side of evil, is the son of the man they once served so faithfullly, Louis XIV, king of France, played by Leonardo Dicaprio.
Caught in the middle of this moral struggle is D’Artagnan played by Gabriel Bryne. D’Artagnan is the one-time “fourth musketeer,” now serving as captain of the guard. For reasons of his own, he has continued to serve king and country despite the less than worthy character of the one occupying the throne.
As France starves under the iron hand of King Louis, our retired Musketeers find themselves inexplicably drawn into the center of the fray. Banding together once more to save France, and perhaps their own souls, they concoct a plan, the success of which hinges upon the rescue and cooperation of the title character, a man imprisoned by Louis and forced to wear a mask welded about his head to ensure his anonymity.
DiCaprio is afforded an opportunity to flex his acting muscles in the dual role of the king and title character. Exploring the polar regions of man’s regions, he succeeds in that he keeps each of his characterizations somewhat one-dimensional. The king is truly evil. The man in the iron mask is truly good. And thus the internal struggle facing all humans can be clearly seen as it is manifested between these two characters.
The internal struggle of man is also embodied in the much more complex personas of The Three Musketeers: Aramis (Jeremy Irons) is seen struggling with the knowledge of past wrongs as he seeks redemption and forgiveness. Athos (John Malkovich) is seen struggling with grief as he seeks revenge. Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) is seen struggling with the pains of growing older while seeking a revitalization of his passion for life.
These struggles, because they are of the personal, internal kind, are perhaps the most intriguing to watch. Depardieu is especially brilliant in his humorous portrayal of a man, once larger then life, now coping with the reality of being merely life-sized.
The main story line which drives the movie is quite reminiscent of the record of Joseph which can be read in Genesis (chapters 39 – 41). Life the man in the iron mask, Joseph was unjustly imprisoned for an extended period of time. He maintained his integrity and decency throughout his wrongful imprisonment. Following his deliverance from prison, he rose to a position of great influence whereby he was able to save an entire nation from certain ruin.
In addition to the story line itself, the characterization of The Three Musketeers is also fodder for a discussion of spiritual truths. At one point, as they attempt to convince D’Artagnan to join their rebellion, Athos makes the point that, ideally, they should have a king worthy of their service.
As Christians, we live that ideal. We serve the one who will be the king of kings (Revelation 17:14). We may not be his “musketeers” but we are his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and he is well worthy of the service we render him.
Later in the movie, the musketeers, facing insurmountable odds, are forced to make a decision that many great men of the Bible have had to make. Is it better to live and betray what is right, or should one be willing to risk everything from one’s beliefs? Their decision will surprise no one. What happens as a result of their decision is quite thrilling and speaks to the benefit of always conducting one’s life by the standard of honor, integrity, valor, and courage. The standard of truth.
We may never be called to test our commitment to the truth in such a life or death manner. But the internal struggle of good vs. evil still rages within each of us. Who will be the ones who have the conviction and strength of will to resist that which runs contrary to what is right? Who are the musketeers among us? And who will be the musketeers of tomorrow? Believe it or not, these are questions which one day will be answered. And in that day, we shall learn and live the true meaning of “All for One and One for All.”
Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.