Thursday, October 1, 2015

Child 44

I watched Child 44 the other day, a movie based on a Tom Rob Smith novel by the same name. There is nothing Anglican in this Russian movie but I reckon there is a bit of theology to tease out. Maybe this could rescue the film which I see has some poor reviews and a low Rotten Tomatoes score.

SPOILER ALERT: you may like to watch the film before reading further!

I liked the way the movie is a series of narratives superimposed on one another. Narrative 1 is a 'whodunnit' as security officer-cum-detective Leo Demidov sets out to solve a serial killer murder mystery.

Narrative 2 is a thriller as an enemy of WW2 hero Demidov pursues him and Raisa his wife intent on killing them.

Narrative 3 is a quest for truth and personal integrity within the Stalinist Soviet Orwellian nightmare in which people are denounced, extreme tests of loyalty to the state grotesquely imposed and the serial killing of children is explained as a series of accidents since there are no murders in paradise. Demidov personally awakens to a new consciousness in the course of the movie inspiring courage to pursue the truth and to bear witness to that truth by asking others to join him.

Narrative 4 is a love story as Leo and Raisa discover they love each other despite Leo initially being willing to denounce her to the authorities on a strictly utilitarian ethic (only she will die if denounced, four people (Leo, Raisa, two parents) will die if not), and Raisa admitting that she married Leo out of fear of consequences if she refused the proposal of one of Stalin's security officers.

Narrative 5 is a story of repentance and redemption as Leo agrees with Raisa to adopt two children left as orphans after one of Leo's security operations.

Narrative 6 is a confrontation between the powers of good and evil, The serial killer and Vasili (Leo's enemy within the security service) try to destroy Leo as 'saviour' ... of 'little children'; the former by tempting Leo to agree with him that he and the serial killer are really just two of a kind, the latter simply by trying to kill him.

Narrative 7 is a story of words and how they may be twisted to define and redefine reality, to say one thing and mean another thing, even to avoid facing real reality. At the end of the film, the Soviet authorities have to admit that the murders have taken place. But they cannot admit that the Soviet Union is therefore not a paradise. Cleverly an explanation is found, a bridge between ideology and reality is built. The serial killer had been a prisoner of the Germans in WW2. They had 'turned him', made him into an agent programmed to destroy paradise by killing its children. There was no Soviet murderer in paradise, just a German one.

Sometimes, if we are honest, certain moves in theology are little different from the '(il)logic' in Narrative 7 ...


Father Ron Smith said...

"Books in the running brooks; sermons in stones" - and Films?

Andrei said...

There is nothing Anglican in this Russian movie

There is nothing Russian about it either - it is Hollywood trash

Peter Carrell said...

Very droll, Andrei!