YOUR Interpretation

So there’s this fable about blind mice and an elephant. Each mouse feels one part of the elephant. The elephant seems to be something different to each mouse, and this leads to a big argument. No mouse realizes it’s an elephant. Each mouse is too small to be able to perceive the whole picture. The idea is that we all have different points of view, that nobody is right or wrong, and that our perspectives are all relative. We all claim to know the truth, to see objectivity, but in reality we are too limited. An extension of this moral is that we should value all interpretations equally.

This idea is somewhat valid, although intrinsically flawed. An intellectual named Tim Keller explains the flaw in this way. The author, by placing himself in a position where he observes everything, the mice and the elephants, also claims to have the truth and objectivity. The author pretends that he isn’t committing the same folly as the mice. Moreover, by communicating that we cannot attain truth and objectivity, he undermines his whole fable. No matter what, we are always trying to attain the objective truth, even when we claim that we aren’t or can’t.

I bring this up as a preface, because I feel that there is too much weight given to the audience’s interpretation, and not enough value attributed to the artist’s intent.

In my opinion, we should try as hard as possible to understand the artist. We shouldn’t dogmatically claim to know his theme. However, I don’t think we should use the artist’s work as fodder for our own agendas. That’s parasitic. For example, many people insist on discussing the misogyny of “Antichrist.” Maybe that is a minor theme of the film. But what is the film called? Is it called “Abusing Women?” Is it called “I Hate Women?” Is it called “Women Suck?” No, it’s called “Antichrist.” I don’t think the intended theme could be any more clearly defined.

Here is my issue. When we ignore the intentions of the artist, we galvanize the divides between people. We can only become closer as a human race if we listen to each other. A film is a medium to connect two people. A director has something in his mind. He translates it into a movie. And then the viewer translates it into his mind. The film is like a glue for our minds to become closer. For us to understand each other. To learn new perspectives.

I’m not just saying this because I want to encourage you to understand my film. I actively try to understand every director’s intent. I think approaching movies in this way will help you grow more, and bring you closer to people. Does your personal, oh-so-unique interpretation really have that much value? Truthfully, I feel closer to Lars Von Trier, Craig Brewer, Stanley Kubrick, Eric Roehmer, and Quentin Tarantino than most people I’ve met in real life. Not because I’ve fabricated original interpretations of their works, but because I believe I have discovered their intentions.

A friend of mine once told me that if there is “one interpretation” and we all discover it, then the film won’t matter any more and will be “done.” I do believe that’s kind of true. I think debate about interpretations is what will give a movie like “Inception” a really long life. However, I don’t think it’s necessary for a film to have a long life. If you’ve read my posting about “legacy,” you’d know what I mean.


More Love from Freethinkers

Press Release from Atheist Alliance International

‘The Evangelist’ for an Atheist Convention
For Immediate Release
(Tampa, June 25, 2010) Attendees of the Atheist Alliance International and Humanist Canada 2010 North American Convention will get an exclusive sneak preview of the International Freethought Film Festival.
This week, the Freethought Film Festival Foundation (FFFF) partnered with Atheist Alliance International (AAI) and Humanist Canada (HC), and committed as a convention sponsor of the AAI-HC 2010 North American Convention. The non-profit, educational organization, whose mission is to “promote reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry through the medium of film”, will be presenting an exclusive sneak preview of the International Freethought Film Festival. The founder and director of the Freethought Film Festival Foundation, Andrea Steele, will give an introduction of the organization to convention atten-dees; followed by a screening of the film, “The Evangelist”. The independent feature film was submitted to the International Freethought Film Festival for consideration, and was an early selection of the judges.
“The Evangelist” is director Nate Chapman‟s first feature film. He describes the film as follows: “At the heart of „The Evangelist‟ is a yearning for more communication between the religious and liberal free-thinkers. Neither taking sides or making value statements, the film pits the two groups together and il-lustrates the dangers of intolerance. Danny is a fixture of Provincetown, a very eccentric and countercul-tural community, while Gideon is a self-serious, fundamentalist. Gideon and Danny are both stubborn and resigned in their ways, acting on their own behalf rather than trying to understand each other.”
In addition to the sneak preview, FFFF will also be among the exhibitors at the AAI-HC 2010 North Ameri-can Convention, which will take place in Montreal, QC Canada, from October 1st-3rd, 2010. The FFFF booth will be tended by both Steele, and FFFF board member, Judi Green, and information about the In-ternational Freethought Film Festival will be available. The film festival is scheduled to take place in Tampa, Florida on Friday the 13th of May, 2011.
Steele states, “The International Freethought Film Festival is different from anything that has ever been done within the freethought movement. It‟s an event with the potential of gaining interest from the gen-eral public, as well as those who are already aware of the freethought community. It‟s a celebration of the artistic expression of freethought ideas, which tends to be forgotten, since the movement traditionally focuses on promoting science and literature. Art is a part of „The Good Life‟, and I hope that we can get the message across to convention attendees that freethought expression through the art of filmmaking is not limited to documentaries. It can be rich with symbolism that exercises the mind as much as a mathematical equation, and entertaining at the same time. „The Evangelist‟ demonstrates this beauti-fully.”
# # #
Freethought Film Festival Foundation, Inc. was established in August, 2009, for the purpose of hosting an annual, International Freethought Film Festival. Its mission is to promote reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry through the medium of film. It is incorporated as a non-profit, charitable, educational organization, as an exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Federal tax code.
# # #
For more information contact:
Andrea Steele Executive Director Freethought Film Festival Foundation, Inc. 888-821-1990

Film Stew


Check out this article on Film Stew about The Evangelist. Its description of the film is probably better than any I’ve ever come up with.

The article was also on Yahoo! movies, but it got taken down since they don’t archive their articles

The Freethinker

Freethinker is the longest-running Atheist journal in the world, operating since 1881. They recently published an article about The Evangelist along with a film by Alejandro Amenabar (director of Academy-Award Nominated The Sea Inside) called Agora, starring Rachel Weisz (The Fountain, The Constant Gardener)

Explication of Scenes: Part III

How about the scene when Danny goes to see Gideon in his cell? The purpose of this scene was to mislead you. The way he treats the priest, you should think that Gideon has some issue with religion. This was a tricky scene because I needed to make it seem that Gideon was anti religious without having him say anything ridiculous like “I hate God.”

I really regret playing the part of “Older Gideon.” When Hitchcock did this kind of thing, it was always at a mundane moment.  When the shots of me occur, there are really critical pieces of information getting revealed. So instead of saying “Ohhhh that’s why!” people are saying “That’s Nate, that’s the director, yadda yadda.” Really, the casting decision was motivated by not having to think about one more actor. On the flip side, I think some people may find it interesting that the director is playing “The Evangelist” character. Does the title possibly refer to the director? Maybe…but I’ve decided to reserve that speculation for the criterion collection essay that will accompany the DVD.

What I like in this scene is the moment when the Priest walks toward Danny. The Priest is discouraged and Danny tries to provide encouraging words.

But the Priest maintains his path, ignoring Danny. The priest disappears behind Danny. But then Danny mentions “I was his father.”

The priest reappears from behind Danny. He is interested by this. The shot isn’t symbolic or anything, but the design of it was meant to communicate the thought process of the Priest through the blocking.
Then we go back to the execution room. Danny and the Priest discuss Gideon. The camera is positioned behind the backs of the characters. I think this creates a more intimate vibe when characters are discussing something very important. They face away from us, so it’s almost like we are eavesdropping.

Here’s something I learned. Flashback cuts need to be motivated by a line. The line doesn’t have to be “It was a dark and stormy night..” but there needs to be something. The flashback here was initially motivated by a pregnant pause. Some people found this jarring. So I freeze framed the shot and added a line of voice over to prompt the flashback. This was fine because we had voice over anyway. It’s amazing what you can fix in post sometimes!

Cape Cod Screening

Thanks to everyone who came to our Private Screening on Cape Cod!

Here are some photos from the Event: it was a packed house

What it’s about: 8 1/2

This  week I decided to tackle something a bit more challenging: 8 1/2. This Fellini masterpiece is an explosion of meanings and implications. You could say it’s about film, it’s about male chauvinism, it’s about longing for the innocence of childhood, but I think what supersedes everything is a complete metaphor for God and his relationship to the world.

Now I am going to try to explain my interpretation as clearly as possible and I apologize if I fail.

Guido is a film director. He has had some success but he is currently having an artistic crises. His next film is ambitious and he is unsure if it will make any sense. As you watch the film, you begin to realize that Guido’s character refers to Fellini. Fellini is a film director, with an artistic crises, and 8 1/2 is a potentially non nonsensical ambitious film. So Guido is the cinematic manifestation of Fellini.

I want to point out that in this post, 8 1/2 stands as a metaphor for a deterministic God. That is, a God who predestined everything to happen and controls every molecule. I think it’s possible to interpret 8 1/2 as a metaphor for a God who permits free will. But for the sake of focus and clarity, I’m not going to entertain that interpretation.

So, a deterministic God controls all the molecules in the universe right? This is comparable to a film director like Fellini who controls all the creative decisions for the movie. But what is unique about 8 1/2 is how  Fellini extends the metaphor with the Guido character. In the same way that God sent down his manifestation in human form to a human world, Fellini sends down his manifestation in cinematic form to a cinematic world. And Guido interacts with people and suffers…and fill in the blanks. If you have any arguments against this interpretation, think about how Guido shoots himself at the climax and the supporting characters carry him like a martyr. And then he resurrects.

I’m just going to stop here because I vowed to make these short. But I want you to know I’ve written about 10 other pages that I’m not including. I think I’ve exercised a divine amount of restraint, because I have a lot more to say. There is not another movie I’ve seen that is so complex with such fascinating implications. For example, given this metaphor “What is Fellini saying about the creative process?” “Does he see himself as God?” “If Guido has control over everything, why does he suffer so much?” “Isn’t it possible to interpret this as a metaphor for a God with a free will?” “Does Fellini actually believe in God?” “Does God like 8 1/2?” “Is God the true director of 8 1/2?” And on and on. Enjoy this one.