I was going to begin this by calling Winter’s Tale “a profoundly religious movie.” But it’s not—spiritual would be a more appropriate term—about as spiritual as you will find coming out of H-wood these days. It over-reached and failed—oh, by say 1000 miles, but still it was rather fascinating and inspiring for its aspirations.
It was written and directed by Akiva Goldsman, and adapted from a 1983 fantasy novel by Mark Helprin. The book has been labeled “sci-fi” because there is a theme of time travel. The plot unfolds in 2014, 1895 and 1916 New York City. Though I haven’t read the book I’d guess magical realism would be a better fit for a genre than sci-fi. A flying white horse appears at opportune times and rescues the lovers, and nothing but the magical realism ala Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s could justify such nonsense.
Also, this was a film that I didn’t particularly want to see, but having nothing better to do Saturday night I went to pretty much the only adult movie playing that I hadn’t seen—cartoons, horror flics and black exploitation films constituted my other choices. I had seen the previews several times and partially read at least one review and so I had some idea as to what it was about. The reviewer noted that it was essentially a love story and so its release on V-day was no accident.
For me, the plot was far too contrived to work as a love story. However, others may be moved by a romance so profound that time is literally bent in service to the story. It has an attractive and talented cast: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil of Downton)—also, a playing-against-type cameo by Will Smith as Lucifer.
The theme which I found most fascinating was the eternal struggle of good and evil. Russel Crowe plays a snarling archdemon with a crew of thuggish sub-demons whose territory is New York City. If anything, he is surely one of the powers and principalities of Ephesians 6:12. He and his band appear to be eternally in charge of stamping out good in NYC, but the hero, the Colin Farrell character, keeps appearing out of time and gumming up the works. In a line worthy of The Screwtape Letters Crowe mutters something about how difficult humans are as they just won’t give up hoping. And the winged white stallion appearing at the most opportune and least expected times strikes me as a wonderful metaphor for God’s grace.
From what I’ve surmised the novel is far too complex to lend itself to the screen, and Goldsman has taken a lot of heat from professional critics for his efforts. However, I will him credit for its attempt to show the interconnectedness of everything—all of our lives, past-present-future blended in service to the moment—and the eternal battle of good and evil, angels and demons and the overarching power of love to win the day—and, for me, God’s universe is as incomprehensible as this movie’s plot. It only all makes sense to those with a need to make sense of it all. As for me, I’m willing to take God’s plans on faith, and in an odd sort of way Goldsman proves the film’s premise about the interconnectedness of everything—like me ferreting out likely unintended Christian themes.
Both Goldsman and Helprin are Jewish, and I would imagine far more likely cultural than observant Jews. Though brilliant and exceptionally well-educated I doubt that they’re conversant with Romans 8:28, or God’s eternal purpose as stated in the first few verses of the Gospel of John, or Paul’s formulation in Colossians 1:15-20. Their effort is definitely New Agey but I was not offended by that or put off. Other than as a passing epithet God is never mentioned in the movie, but for me HE is ever-present. It’s too obvious–SOMEBODY orchestrated all of this—how about Love Himself.