It’s not often I find myself in agreement with the Vatican, but something they said recently about this year’s Oscar-winning films caught my attention, and chimed with thoughts I’d been having recently on the same topic. Basically their complaint is that, this year at least, the Academy rewarded films which are “filled…with hopelessness”.
I’ve seen “No Country For Old Men”, and while I enjoyed it for its formal qualities, the evocative photography, the memorable characters, the restrained yet powerful acting, and so forth, it’s true that it doesn’t really say very much other than “There sure are some crazy, violent people out there – what’s the world coming to, eh?”
During my teens and twenties I was as keen as anyone else on dark, violent, fashionably nihilistic films, more often than not because they were written and directed by men (and they’re always men) with abundant technical flair, which was an additional reason to find them “cool”. But as I’ve grown (up, hopefully…) and become a father (I think that’s relevant here) I find myself much more interested in people who have something positive or useful to say, in films and books which display qualities such as humanity, compassion, understanding, and, yes, hope.
Now I’m not saying that films, or any piece of artistic expression, for that matter, should all be sweetness and light and happy-clappiness and “ain’t life grand?”. But if you’re going to trawl the depths of despair, or poke about in the darkest nooks and crannies of the human psyche, I’d say that it’s only really worthwhile if you come out the other side having learnt something, or having found some way to illuminate that darkness a little.