Monday, December 14, 2009

Movie review: Oh My God

When Pearline Pinsonant's human and I went to see The Road, recently, one of the trailers that appeared in the interminable procession of movie previews beforehand was of a documentary, made by one Peter Rodger, entitled Oh My God.  According to the trailer, the film was an exploration of the meaning of God as understood by people from all walks of life and from all over the world.  "Oh my God!" I whispered to my friend (oblivious to the coincidence of my outburst).  "That flick is a 'must see'!"  As I continue my lifelong search, any serious examination of the nature and meaning of God is going to catch my attention, and this film appeared to be just that.

I went to the theater on Saturday, eager and hopeful.  But, sadly, after viewing Mr. Rodger's desultory effort, I came away underwhelmed and disappointed.  The film falls short.  Actually, it doesn't just fall short:  it fails.

Rodger sets out first in one direction, then in another, as he conducts interviews with various people from around the world (Buddhist holymen, Muslim radicals, Christian Bible-thumpers, Orthodox Jews, Hindus, and any number of celebrities) on the assumption that they will impart some wisdom about God.  Well, I'm sorry.  I love Ringo Starr as much as any other Beatles fan, but how are Ringo's (or Seal's or Bob Geldof's) theistic musings any more worthy of examination than those of anyone else?

Rodger touches on many worthy topics, including humanitarianism, militant religious fervor, and the Palestinian issue, but fails to give any of them sufficient examination.  His skipping and skimming is confusing for any viewer that makes the mistake of trying to discern a larger moral from the work.  Nothing to see here, folks.  In fact, some of the observations are downright laughable.  ("Now I'm in Kenya, but if I walk over here I'm in Tanzania.  See how mankind imposes definitions on God's creation?"  Come on!  Any gaggle of stoned teenagers could do better than that!)

It is not that the film doesn't have visual appeal.  Rodger has a talent for capturing panoramic scenes:  sweeping shots of Himalayan plateaus, African savannas, Australian bush.  There are many aesthetically pleasing montages, troves of dazzling landscapes and fascinating people.  Throughout the film Rodger frames his shots with loving attention to light and shadow and color, even in the interviews.  I found Rodger's use of the soundtrack (written by Alexander Van Bubenheim) to be a bit heavy-handed, however.  It's standard New World beat stuff that Rodger throws over the top of his scenic montages in an apparent attempt to obscure his lack of substance.   

At the viewing I attended, there were no more than a dozen people in the seats.  Well, I'm afraid this film doesn't warrant much more than that.  In fact, one could glean everything of value from it by waiting for the DVD and then watching it with the sound muted.

Lastly, I'd like to offer Mr. Rodger a piece of wisdom from the Bible that I hope might help to guide him in his future cinematic endeavors:
Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, neither search the things that are above thy strength. --Ecclesiasticus 3:21

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