Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Rashomon and Calvin

I watched Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" last night and I was struck by the Protestant implications of the movie. The movie is a series of four narratives of a single event, with each telling slightly contradicting the other. Both we, the audience, and the actors on stage are left with a deep dispare--how can we persist if we know that our experience is all a composite of lies?
In the end, though the narrator is implicitly implicated in the murder of the main character, in an act of generosity (taking in the orpahned child) we forget/forgive the woodcutter. As Donald Richie (the commentator in the background)says "Affirmation in the face of doubt is true courage for Kurosawa"
I think the movie sheds light on many of the difficulties Protestant theologians struggle with (e.g., multiplicity of truth and falsehood) but also points out a brighter side to Calvin. While Calvin does see man as a fallen being, we are still commanded to love each other. The American stereotype "You are all-right"* does run against the grain for Calvin, I do think that Calvin would acknowledge "affirmation in the face of doubt" or rather that we must love our neighbor even though s/he is fallen. It is specifically "affirmation in the face of doubt" (maybe anxiety in the works of Keirkegaard?) which allows us to press on with our religious existence.

And before Oren gets up-in-my-crew, I will note that the Rav loved Keirkegaard (which is where my love of Protestant theology comes from) and borrowed much of his writings from Karl Barth.

* I love the Radiohead song "Packt like Sardines in a Crushed Box" off Amnesiac, which hauntingly echos this idea.


Zev said...

My Prof said this:
I think you got the point exactly! That *IS* the bright side to Calvin, and the analogy to "Rashomon" is very illuminating. Most people get hung up on Calvin's insistence that we are not "all right." Then they cannot see any further. But for Calvin it's precisely the further point that really matters: we can affirm life even in the face of doubt and uncertainty, and indeed we should. For Calvin that's the only way to affirm life completely - meaning, to affirm not only the things we like, but also the things we don't like. The reason why he keeps insisting that we are not all right, and cannot fathom God, and so on is that, unless this is fully understood, you cannot get to the next level.

Julie Fredrickson said...

Hey Zev,

I am in your Calvin class too, Julie Fredrickson of the fundie group. Because of your rec I went and rented Rashomon. Loved it. Though I spent more time being fascinated by Tojimouru's constant itching and scratching than Protestant implications. I found your blog by accident through Will Baude's blog. Feel free to check mine out.
I'll link you up if you like.

I post on Calvin quite frequently.