Friday 18 April 2014

Holy and Blasphemous fiction

First, an announcement for my readers who live in or near Manchester, if there are any: there is a film festival organized with the collaboration of the Anthony Burgess Foundation: Christianity, Controversy, Cinema. I learned it from their blog. I don't like the title much, I think it should have been called Holy and Blasphemous Cinema, or something of the sort. When one speaks about religion and gathers controversy, it is either because it is devout or blasphemous. The first movie is of course Jesus of Nazareth. Not a controversial cinematic account of the Gospels in any way, but a beautiful movie all the same, and with plenty of Burgess' witticism. That said, I tend to put my favorite writer among the iconoclasts and the blasphemers. Because his Jesus was more Zeffirelli's Jesus, for one, and because what I would call his "Biblical trilogy" (the three novels and films he wrote about the Exodus, the life of Jesus and the early days of Christianity) question, of not completely challenges, the claims at the heart of Christianity. In Man of Nazareth, the novel he wrote alongside the movie, the sacred mixes with profane details and Rabelaisian vulgarity. I recently rewatched Moses the Lawgiver, a brilliant, underrated movie, far superior to the bombastic but far more famous Cecil B de Mille's movie. While the latter was a devout Biblical spectacle, Moses is a complete deconstruction/demythification of the Exodus, where God could merely be a manifestation of Moses' madness. Read a full review on this blog. It surprised me to read online devout Christians praising it: the movie is everything but a piece of Christian propaganda. But Burgess was blasphemous in other ways. Literature, as it is said at the beginning of The Kingdom of the Wicked for instance, has no interest in moral. It does, however, has interest in truth, and in this novel, Christian claims to truth, whether it is historical or spiritual, are smashed to pieces. The promises of eternal life is crushed by the certainty of death. Fiction has little value if it is not blasphemous.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

"Fiction has little value if it is not blasphemous" -- hmmm, interesting. Must give this some thought. Not sure if I entirely agree.

Guillaume said...

Think about it: without blasphemy, fiction becomes an apology of established dogmas. There has to be something seditious in it, and there usually is in quality one.

Mantan Calaveras said...

No, great art is not blasphemous. It IS sacred. In much the same way that Yeshua's attack of the temple system was sacred, rather than blasphemous.

Blasphemous means hurtful speech, good art doesn't hurt except when it's necessary to sanitize a septic wound, or to do some necessary surgery.

I can tell you this because I AM an artist. We are the medicine men, we are here to ward off disease, and to make you well.

Guillaume said...

I think we disagree on what blasphemous means. Any attack on or criticism of the established order is, IMO, blasphemous, or at least subversive.