Clint Eastwood and the Hope of Heaven

For a movie about the afterlife, Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” is dead on arrival.

The film follows three interconnected narratives that each deal with mortality in one way or another. A retired San Francisco psychic (Matt Damon) is coerced into once again communing with the dead. A French television journalist (Cecile De France) suffers a near-death experience. A pair of English twins (George and Frankie McLaren) finds their own means of survival while living with their drug-addicted mother.

Individually, these are each intriguing tales – at least until they coalesce around the central idea of life after death. Whether we’re seeing the psychic’s visions of his clients’ deceased relatives or the journalist’s visions after being knocked unconscious, Eastwood relies on the same vague visual concept: bright lights, blurry figures, a general sense of blue. And that’s about all Eastwood offers.

Mind you, I’m not demanding a Biblically based depiction of heaven. In a January post I argued that secular visions of life after death can be instructive for Christian viewers. At the very least, though, a film on this subject should evoke the wonder and terror that races through our minds when we ponder our mortality. “Hereafter” isn’t transcendent or despondent – and it’s not really anywhere in between. The movie broaches, then dodges, the elemental question at its center: What happens to us after we die?

Some, including the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert, Variety’s Justin Chang and Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers have argued that “Hereafter” doesn’t need to offer an answer. Ebert expanded on this on his blog, where he wrote that “Hereafter” is about “the common human need for there to be an afterlife.” Online comments here and elsewhere agreed, praising Eastwood for not pandering to such a silly need and the religious belief systems that ostensibly serve it. Why, these comments ask, must humans naively crave a life beyond this one, despite any scientific evidence to the contrary?

For Christians, the answer is obvious: Heaven has been promised to us by Jesus Christ. Yet the debate surrounding “Hereafter” made me wonder what role the hope of heaven may actually play in our spiritual lives. How much of our faith is tied to this very human need to be assured that there is life after death?  And how can we ensure that belief in Jesus takes precedence over the desire for eternal life?

I’d also be curious to hear from those of you who saw “Hereafter.” Did you also find it spiritually cold? Or did its laconic demeanor - this is Eastwood, after all – work for you?

Comments (2)

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I agree the movie was spiritually cold. But I wish you had addressed the dangerous promotion in the movie of contact with the dead. Matt Damon (as George) is shown as being totally accurate, and it is clear that he is depicted as really being able to contact the dead since he gives accurate information. The source for any such accurate information, if it is not fraudulent or coincidence, is demonic. I was in the occult and had spirit guides. All psychics and mediums have such guides, who are demons. I wrote an article on this movie that should be on my site soon.
I like Ex-astrologers comment simply because it comes from experience. It's difficult to speak on any subject with authority without having dealt with it first hand. It's also wonderful to read of the work God has done to bring you out of occult influences. It's frustrating how that entire concept blows by people when they look into 'connecting with spirits'. I cringe at the surge in popularity of these so-called 'ghost hunter' tv shows training up the next generation of witchcraft users. I highly doubt this movie looks into these subjects biblically. Nor does it even suggest that it might. I simply am criticizing hollywood in general for the stance they have taken to be as blasephemous as possible essentially saying: "look, God didn't strike us down for saying that, therefore he doesn't exist..." Thats probably a post for a more general article, but oh well. As for the Hope of Heaven, we can rely on the promise that God is just. Common to human experience is the recognition where and how justice can or needs to be served. Heaven gives us that assurance. The concept of evil itself becons good. There are tears that need to be wiped away, rivers of pain that need healing... so on etc. John gave us Revelation of Jesus being worshipped by an incalculable number from every tribe and nation. A vision of every wrong being made right. It testifys to the truth of Eternity. Not a human conjuring of a need to imagine an afterlife. How petty is that. How futile. How pagan. These ideas are the product of a society bored with life, stimulated into obscurity, fattened off of the land, and quite frankly spritually destitute.

 

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