Modern Cinema For An Orthodox Faith – The Director’s Interpretation

Cassie Steele (Contributing Editor) – OCP News Service – 22/8/18

With nearly 77% of Orthodox Christians living in Europe, a worldwide view on the inner workings of the Orthodox Church may vary from region to region as the faith becomes a little less concentrated. Hollywood, for instance, might depict Orthodoxy completely different to the French, as their exposure to the faith is quite different. While there are many that attempt at restoring the image of the Orthodox Church as it coexists in modernity, there are some very different interpretations of the faith out there.

Modern day Greek Orthodoxy in film
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) is a film that depicts the family dynamics of a Greek Orthodox family. These dynamics are inherently Greek from the lifestyle through to the family business and smorgasbord of delicious meals that get served up, not to mention larger-than-life family gatherings. The daughter of the patriarch in the family decides to marry an outsider, which places a lot of pressure on the family and their position in church. In order for the couple to go through with the wedding, the Orthodox Church requires the husband-to-be to be baptized, regardless of his faith. While the film is veiled in comedy, there is a strong sense of family and the importance of togetherness. Both qualities valued by Orthodox Christians. For an American interpretation of Orthodox life, this is both accurate and inspiring.

Hope for the modern man
One of Russia’s greatest exports is the film, The Island (2006) is the story of a 20th century Eastern Orthodox monk. It follows the journey of the holy monk as he becomes famed in the region for his ability to heal. The monk, played by Nikita Mikhalkov, is riddled with regret and shame as he faces the tribulations of his past. The film is set in the 1970s and the director’s interpretation of the setting in those years is truly accurate. For viewers, the message is that of spiritual development and contemplation. While his methods may be eccentric, the monk always manages to get the message across in a meaningful way that blesses the recipient. A true gem amidst an ocean of modernity.

An interpretation that may have lost its meaning
While Darren Aronofsky is considered one of the greatest directors of our time, his interpretation of the story of Noah (2014) may just be a little off the mark. The inaccuracies of the film, when compared to the accounts in the Bible, leave movie-goers feeling a little done in, despite the massive budget and impressive CGI. For Orthodox Christians, the film leaves them with a bitter taste of regret that there was no one else with this kind of budget to interpret the story of Noah. The additional storylines, inaccurate timelines, and strange creatures that have no historical relevance make this tale one that is far-fetched and fanciful. For non-believers, this only leads to their belief that the Bible is a book filled with fairy tales.

With a world population of around 11%, Orthodox Christians can have a bigger part in the interpretation of their faith in modern film. A clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t, makes the world of difference.

Cassie Steele – OCP News Service