Saturday, February 23, 2013

“Zero Dark Thirty” and Faith in One God

I woke up yesterday determined to resume my series of posts about the Catechism and turned to the next section, “The Implications of Faith in One God” (222–227). I ended the day at Hollywood Hits, watching “Zero Dark Thirty” with Katie.

Now I am awake in the middle of the night realizing that there was a theme to my day all along: faith works.

All this despite the fact that my much-loved and respected pastor, Father David Barnes, is being reassigned in phase one of the reorganization of the Archdiocese of Boston.

At such times, faith is as vital as oxygen. The Catechism says faith has “enormous consequences for our whole life.” (222) “Zero Dark Thirty” shows it kicking ass.

Controversial for scenes of waterboarding and for implying that such interrogation techniques were more important in tracking Osama Bin Laden than in fact they were, “Zero Dark Thirty”is a profoundly religious movie. And not least because it is almost entirely Jessica Chastain’s movie. She is its heart, soul, body, and divinity.

Seeing her performance, I laughed to realize that TV ads for the film near the end of the NFL season did not show a single image of the actress, focusing instead on the manly doings of Seal Team 6. (They didn’t like the movie either.)

Full disclosure notice: (1) Jessica Chastain is the client of the boyfriend of the daughter of my dental hygienist. (ns) (2) Her performance reminded Katie and me of our older daughter, the only other actor I know who could have played the role as well. (3) If that weren’t enough to bias me, Terence Malick’s “Tree of Life” would be. In it Chastain plays an otherworldly mother with the same big-eyed, fine-boned porcelain presence that makes it impossible to take your eyes off her in “ZDT.” Almost exactly a year ago, I called “Tree of Life” “the only truly experimental Oscar nominee for Best Picture of the Year” and for all that a Catholic film.

All the controversy surrounding “ZDT,” including the question was there a woman anything like Maya (Chastain) at the center of the Hunt for Bin Laden, isn’t worth a thimbleful of spit compared with its compelling lesson: Evil can be conquered, but only if we keep faith. The film tracks the nearly ten-year-history of the search for the architect of 9/11, beginning with an audio tape of a real live dying voice, weeping in terror over a  911 line. (This, like the waterboarding scenes, is handled with restraint by director Kathryn Bigelow.)

The section on faith in one God from the CCC cites two notable saints in support of its points. Both are women, like the star and director of “ZDT”: Joan of Arc and Teresa of Jesus. The first admonishes us to “serve God first.” The second comforts us with her immortal “Nada Te Turbe”:

Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you
Everything passes / God never changes
Patience / Obtains all
Whoever has God / Wants for nothing
God alone is enough.

While politicians waffle and her agency bosses cover their asses, Maya continues serving her God, doing the one and only thing she was hired directly out of high school to do: find Bin Laden. Teresa of Ávila’s poem might have been her theme song. “ZDT” shows her troubled and frightened but never cowed—impatient with CIA higher-ups who don’t believe that the lead she has uncovered can help track Bin Laden, but never giving up on belief.

Maya is a female hero for our times, who can swear like the boys but won’t give up her integrity for them. To the head of the CIA, she identifies herself as a “motherfucker.” To a girlfriend who counsels her that maybe she ought to get laid to take the edge off, she says she is not “the girl who fucks.”

One tough broad, Jessica Chastain, one perfect Virgin. She gets my Oscar vote for Best Actress. Best Picture? I don’t think so. I’ll give my predictions (another thimbleful of spit) in my next post.

Patience obtains all.

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