Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Golden Compass gets "M" Rating

Ie. not suitable for anyone under 15years old. Good on the Australian Censors for that one. Mind you, it puts it in the category of the more recent Harry Potter films, and that didn't stop kids from going to see it.

Our Communications office sent me Fr Peter Malone's review today. Fr Malone is the director of the film desk at SIGNIS: The World Association of Catholic Communicators. His review can be read online here, and obviously this review has been reissued for the Australian context as well. But given the "M" rating, that does mean that Fr Malone's suggestion that "the film should appeal to its boys and girls target audience - and the adults will probably enjoy it too" is a bit off.

The version of the review I received (which I expect is the version that will be reprinted here in Australian Catholic magazines) is actually an abbreviated version of the full on-line review. The review on-line begins with the disclaimer that this "is a statement on the film and the film itself, not the novel Northern Lights on which the film is based, or other Pullman novels - which I have not read." One can't help but wonder what Fr Malone's reaction to the film would have been if he had read them.

Given that he hasn't read the books, his credulity can perhaps be forgiven. He is concerned that a movie is being condemned before it has been seen. Fair enough. But we have never said the movie was the problem. The problem is that when kids see a movie, they often want to read the books (which have already begun to reappear on the shelves of Australian bookshops) -- and the books ARE a problem.

Here are some of Fr Malone's more naive questions:
Allowing that Pullman is critical of religion [understatement of the year] and professes atheism, is the faith of the ordinary Catholic, the ordinary reader and cinemagoer so slight that it can be rocked or undermined by The Golden Compass? [This is like asking: could Eve have been tempted to disobey God by a snake over an apple?]

Do books and films like Harry Potter or The Golden Compass actually provide opportunities for parents and teachers to communicate with their children on a different level from teaching and doctrine and raise key questions about the nature of God, the nature of faith, the need for redemption? [Harry Potter is not in the same league as The Golden Compass; but in answer to the question, yes, of course--as long as you engage them in the conversation]

Is Pullman’s creating of The Magisterium a critique (as he claims) of authoritarian religion and his ’death of God’ rather a critique that should mean the death of false images of God (like the stern allegedly Old Testament God of vengeance) which we could all agree with? [Naive, Fr Malone. Read the books]

Is Pullman advocating some kind of ’authoritative’ religion which is marked by integrity, responsibility and adult interaction and compassion? [What? Again, read the books, Fr Malone]
I take his point about not criticising a film unseen, but it seems a little disingenuous to defend a story that one hasn't read.

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