Though, God does not play an overt part
in this movie, screenwriter Alan Ball establishes the spirituality of the film
in several ways. First, there is the voice-over monologue of Lester Burnham (Kevin
Spacey) who narrates the story of the final year in his life from the perspective
of a character speaking to us from the realm of the dead. This simple technique
tells us from the outset that Burnham is bringing to the here-and-now a sense
of perspective that he could only have achieved by passing to the "other side."
What he finds from this perspective is, to put it in a word, beauty. Not
the simple beauty of appearances, but the deeper beauty that conveys a sense of
the ultimate worth of life itself, and the mystery that lies behind it. Lester
is not the only one aware of this, or course. There's also Ricky, the next door
neighbor, who videotapes a plastic bag blowing in the wind and says:
was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing. And there's this electricity
in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just ... dancing with
me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That's
the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly
benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever.
has a character in a movie come closer to what the mystics refer to as the "mysterium
tremendum." For Ricky is clearly in touch with a presence beyond the here and
now, and a power greater than that which can be understood by a merely human intelligence.
It's the same ultimate reality which Lester himself invokes in the closing voice
over of this powerful film. I reproduce the words of the screenplay with Alan
Ball's original punctuation and emphasis:
once again over Robin Hood Trail, ASCENDING SLOWLY.
...and then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it
flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single
moment of my stupid little life ... (amused) You have no idea what I'm talking
about, I'm sure. But don't worry ...
FADE TO BLACK.
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.