Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Avatar & Beauty - Adrian Stark-Ordish

On Monday evening's a member of the student body gives a short homily at Evening Prayer. This was delivered by Adrian Stark-Ordish.

I know that some of you have seen the film ‘Avatar’ and I imagine that the rest of us are aware of it in some way. It has been a global phenomenon, delighting audiences of different nationalities and cultures. Its amazing 3D effects have been marvelled at and it has been seen as “truly next level stuff”. This evening I’m not going to discuss the plot, I’m simply interested in the effect this film has on people.

In particular, I am interested in the effect in had on my Dad. He described it as ‘beautiful’. Now, my Dad is not prone to seeing things as beautiful - I’ve tried to get him to see the beauty in a sunset or to wonder at the construction of a hand, but his response is “it’s just science; we know how it all works”. I wanted to explore the film that had given him this experience.

Empire, the film magazine, has called Avatar a “transcendent, full-on five star experience”. I wonder if that makes you think of anything else.

Avatar has changed the game in cinema and brought people into a new relationship with a film. I think that there are some insights that we can learn from if we consider this. The first is patience. James Cameron, the man behind the film, has been working on it for 14 years. He had to stick with his vision for all this time but was unable to realise it until now. I wonder how long we are willing to work at a project, or to let an idea germinate until it is ready to be realised.

Second, Hollywood is constantly striving to improve the experience of cinema going (although you might not think so given some of the dross that gets released!). With a film like Avatar the boundaries have been pushed back and a new level has been created through the harnessing of the very latest technology. This constant effort to improve and to use the best of what is currently available is a counsel against complacency and simply doing things in the same way without looking at whether that way is still the best way.

I realise that film and church are not the same, and I do not advocate a wholesale transfer of the strategies from one to the other. Nevertheless there seems to be an opportunity for reflection here.

Avatar offers people a glimpse of a different perspective, of something new, something beautiful. Perhaps this is also part of our calling - to offer a glimpse of a different perspective, something beautiful, in our worship and our lives and to invite people to wonder and love.