Silence. This Martin Scorsese project—apparently being adapted from the Shusaku Endo novel—has been talked about for awhile by multiple sources (most recently Christianity Today’s History & Biography). Back in November 2005, Variety—which labeled the film as "Scorsese’s Japan-set passion-project"—described it as “the martyrdom-themed tale of two 17th century Portuguese missionaries who return to Japan to minister to Christians, who've been outlawed.” Interestingly, Scorsese has a Roman Catholic background (Endo was Catholic). Couple that with the faith that laces Scorsese’s films, and it will be, to say the least, an interesting project. But the story is not for the weak of heart. It is full of anguish, betrayal and suffering. If you don’t mind being spoiled, see either this article from Theology Today (a publication of Princeton Theological Seminary) or this one from Commonweal for more about the difficult issues of faith which Endo explores in his novel. This project is in the very early, early stages and no release date has been set.
The Sparrow. Here’s another one not for the weak of heart. Interestingly, the Warner Bros. project (which has Brad Pitt’s name attached as a producer and possible actor) also comes from a novel written by a Catholic, Mary Doria Russell. The novel’s main character is also a priest, but instead of Japan this one travels to a distant planet. Many of the same themes—especially the silence of God—play deeply in this story as well. For more information on the story itself, see Amazon (minimal spoilers) or Wikipedia (major spoilers). This film is in pre-production with a 2008 release date.
United 93. This film, which opens April 28, chronicles the ill-fated 9/11 flight that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. According to the film’s web site, it “recreates the doomed trip in actual time” and “attempts to understand the abject fear and courageous decisions of those who—over the course of just 90 minutes—transformed from a random assembly of disconnected strangers into bonded allies who confronted an unthinkable situation.” The film is written and directed by Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, Borne Supremacy). So, why a God-talk film? Because God-talk is all over the place, and no one picks up on that better than Terry Mattingly: see his discussion of the film here and here. Also, you can view the trailer here. Personally, it is still too close to 9/11 for me to sit through this one.
The Fountain. Starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, this film spans centuries. Cinecon describes it as:
an odyssey about one man’s thousand-year struggle to save the woman he loves. His epic journey begins in 16th century Spain, where conquistador Tomas Creo (Hugh Jackman) commences his search for the Tree of Life, the legendary entity believed to grant eternal life to those who drink of its sap. As modern-day scientist Tommy Creo, he desperately struggles to find a cure for the cancer that is killing his beloved wife Isabel (Rachel Weisz). Traveling through deep space as a 26th century astronaut, Tom begins to grasp the mysteries of life that have consumed him for more than a century.Why on the God-talk list? Because any film that deals with the quest for eternal life has the potential for God-talk. You can see the trailer here. The film appears to be in post-production and is slated for an October 2006 release date.
The Water Horse. Via Cinecon, Variety reports that Walden Media (those who brought us The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) is teaming with others to bring Dick King Smith’s novel to the big screen. Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin and Alex Etel are attached to the film. The plot? Also according to Cinecon (major spoilers below):
The book tells the story of a young girl, Kirstie, and her brother, Angus in Scotland who find a mysterious egg capsule on the shore of a lake and take it home. When the egg hatches, a sea monster is born and they name it Crusoe. It keeps growing and growing, until finally it is too big to live anywhere but in nearby Loch Ness, to which it later becomes known as the mythical Loch Ness Monster.I’m an easy target for stories like this, so I just ordered the book. I also believe that fantasy and science fiction are great genres to explore meaningful themes relevant to faith. (In fact, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien believed that fairy tales and myth were excellent ways to communicate truth. They thought them rich with biblical themes: transformation, mystery, life beyond death, belief in another world, good versus evil, happy endings, etc.) You can find out more about the novel at Amazon. The film begins production in New Zealand next month and has a 2007 release date.
Finally, here’re a couple more tidbits: Spider-Man 3’s official website has launched and Superman Returns has released some new stills from the film. (And you can click here to find out why comic book films often make my God-talk list.)