Viewing "Dogma" And "Being John Malkovich" At The Keauhou Movie Theater - Crazy, Surreal, Emotionally Barren Plots - The Movies Left Me Feeling Bored And Irritable - A Life In Service Of The Heart Leaves No Time For Intellectual Masturbation

Cultural Criticism - December 6, 1999

1999.12.6.  Monday, 6:00 a.m.

Just recently I saw two movies at the Keauhou movie theater: "Dogma," which was about the hypocrisies and contradictions of the Catholic Church; and "Being John Malkovich," which was about a crazy, imaginary world inside New York City.  The movies were intelligent enough; "Being John Malkovich" was almost brilliant.  But I wanted to leave them both.  Early on in "Dogma" I got a headache and knew that my emotional and existential health required that I leave.  But I stubbornly stayed on.  I had the same feeling from "Being John Malkovich," although the feeling came later and not as strongly.

There are several reasons for my not wanting to be there in the theater.  The seats were uncomfortable.  The air quality was poor.  Watching something bright and artificially alive from the vantage point of darkness was unsettling to me: it was as if I were the dead, the unliving, and the screen was attractive and full of life. I did not like that feeling at all.  I don't like being in the dark, passively observing something.  I always want to be engaged.  Sitting still for two hours, passively absorbing the images on the screen was a life-denying chore for me.  The screen is a two-dimensional falseness, a poor reflection of the reality and magnificence of what is real.  The small crowd at the theater -- on both occasions, I was accompanied by no more than six-to-ten movie-goers -- was visibly unhealthy and uncharismatic. I was the only one laughing out loud or otherwise participating in the drama played out on the screen.  I don't care for quiet, dumb, sickly, sheep-like people. Their auras are a drain on my own.

Lastly, and most importantly, was the drama that unfolded on the screen.  It was the actual content of the movies that provided 70 percent of the reason for my wanting to depart.  Both films were emotionally barren.  Their plots were crazy and surreal, with little attention given to character development.  Neither movie had a compelling narrative or purpose.  Both movies were full of jolts of wit, sick humor, insensitive actions, and sex or lust devoid of emotional connection.  The longer I watched the movies, the more bored, restless, and irritable I became.  Back in college, when I was twenty years old, I would have found the movies more palatable, as my emotional centers were not so well-developed as they are now.  Back then I might have found such movies interesting or even satisfying. Brilliant intellectual products with little emotional content used to be acceptable to me.  But today, being older and wiser, I ask that art deliver a more honest and full experience. But both of the movies were inherently dishonest. Art -- and the act of thinking itself -- that is not in the service of the heart is false. It's about intentionality. The directors had no intention to create something true, beautiful, or ideal. It was the intention, the aspiration behind the movies, that failed so miserably. Their hearts were not in the "right place." Their "art" was an attempt to further entrench modern alienation, with no intention to find a deeper, more integrative meaning by which to resolve the crisis.

I told my mother that in the future she should only recommend emotionally rewarding movies with good plots and character development.  I don't have time for intellectual masturbation anymore.  My mind is committed to the heart and to what is real -- or at least, to what should be real, i.e., the ideal.

Being John Malkovich (Wikipedia) (pdf) Amazon Reviews (pdf)

Dogma (Wikipedia) (pdf) Amazon Reviews (pdf)


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