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January 13, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

(Tampa) We saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire over the weekend. It was very enjoyable--suspenseful, beautiful to look at, and romantic. It did pose a philosophical or theological question that I've pasted below the fold--because I can't discuss it without spoiling the suspenseful conclusion.

Assume that the premise of the movie is true. Some powerful supernatural force ensures that two very attractive young people who have suffered badly throughout their lives attain happiness and enormous wealth together at the end. Does this demonstrate that the world is good--or, as Salim says in his least breath, "God it great"? I feel quite the contrary. If there really were a divine force capable of arranging the fates of men and women, and if that force were content with making two beautiful people happy while allowing another 10 million citizens of Mumbai to live in the poverty, oppression, and violence depicted in the movie, this force would be a diabolical one. In the terms of the movie:

Q. Why are so many people suffering?
A. So it is written.

That sounds like very bad news to me. But it's a characteristic problem with romantic fiction that the broader situation recedes into the background as we focus on the lovers at the center.

January 13, 2009 8:09 PM | category: none


From Cindy Gibson, by email:

    I saw Slumdog Millionaire about a month ago and had a similar reaction to it. It reminded me of "The Year of Living Dangerously," another film that put its rather white protagonists through hell and then lifted them from the country -- and the millions of its residents living in squander -- via a lovely aircraft bound for better destinations. That shot nagged at me for weeks, as it did the friend who saw it with me who agreed that whatever "entertainment" value of the film was mitigated by its portrayal of a world mired in violence and poverty -- and one in which few Americans live or are even aware of.

January 16, 2009 8:44 PM | Comments (3) | posted by Peter Levine

I really enjoyed this movie. But I wonder aobut your analysis: perhaps you are misinterpreting the meaning of "great". It is not a qualitative judgment about good or evil. I think it ought to be understood as "awesome" or "powerful."

January 19, 2009 2:35 PM | Comments (3) | posted by Michael Weiksner

I think "God is great" is a translation of the phrase Allahu Akbar. Thus Mike Weiksner is right that it could have several meanings. According to wikipedia, this phrase is both a formal declaration of faith in an omnipotent and benign deity (which is how I heard it) and also just an exclamation used "at times of extreme stress or euphoria."

January 21, 2009 10:23 AM | Comments (3) | posted by Peter Levine

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