Why We Need to Make More Philippians 4:8-Inspired Movies
By Anna Booher, Contributing Writer
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Making movies with God-like goals to inspire goodness can be achieved. Movies can be made truthful in their construction. Movies can be made noble by showcasing acts of bravery and honor. Righteousness can be seen through messages of family values and hard work. Purity can be seen in the triumph of honest characters with good intentions. Some of the most inspiring movies can be made lovely by a character seeing the beauty in someone else. Admiration can come from watching the protagonist struggle throughout the movie but refusing to give up.
Philippians 4:8 can serve as a guide to making a worthwhile project, perhaps even “excellent” and “praiseworthy.”
Movies inform life, because they are taken and made from life. In her dissertation for a doctorate in philosophy, Lindsay Fiorelli explores the ways in which movie-makers present truth. Movie-makers manipulate the viewers perception, in other words direct an audience towards what things to “think on.”
An entire story is being told, however; often in movies, elements of it are told off-screen. Sometimes cinematographers even restrict frame, motion and sound to create a certain perception and focus. The viewer may only follow one character who narrates the action of the movie via their own perception. The way an actor portrays a character can also inform how credible they appear to the viewer. The viewer learns facts about the world the movie-makers have created.
The viewer is informed about what their general opinion about the world should be via the facial expressions, physicality, nature, culture, and conventions that are presented to them. Sights, sounds, and the way in which the characters communicate, suggest how the viewer is supposed to feel about the action occurring in front of them. For example, ominous music, dogs barking and smoke rising, infuses the viewer with feelings of danger and tension.
More subtly, Fiorelli posits that a mixture of celebrity, with ordinary settings, in a fictional world, engages the viewers imagination. She argues that movies can sometimes be more credible in informing viewers beliefs than text, because movies engage all the senses.
Using cinematic tools and the guidance of Philippians 4:8, moviemakers can create movies that impress the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and even excellent or praiseworthy.
Dr. Diane Howard, also influenced by Philippians 4:8, suggests that moviemakers should not strive to subtly deceive their audience to believe something contrary or to cheer for protagonists who are blatantly bad role models.
A recent example of Philippians 4:8 being exemplified well in a movie can be seen in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD. The successful franchise ends with a movie that can stand on its own successfully based in truth, nobility, righteousness, purity, loveliness, and admirability.
Even in difficult times, Hiccup strives to be honest with the Viking clan he now leads. He tells them about impending danger and impresses his people to move forward. He looks to the noble example of his father for courage to make decisions and lead. When he realizes that he is putting his own needs before Toothless and the other dragons, he does everything he can to make it right again, sacrificing his own life to save Toothless and Light Fury from the greedy Grimmel.
Hiccup and Astrid exemplify pure love for one another. They see marriage as an important union, and Astrid constantly reminds Hiccup about the loveliness in himself and what makes him a special leader. Toothless is inspired to become a leader like Hiccup and joins with Light Fury to lead the other dragons.
Despite Hiccup’s insecurity, Toothless never abandons his human friend. Their admirable friendship and willingness to sacrifice for one another even inspires Light Fury to not just look out for the other dragons she has befriended, but also the human Hiccup. The viewer watches these characters struggle, but ultimately “think about these things” enough for them to do what is excellent and even praiseworthy.
The movie-makers achieved the excellent and praiseworthy with high ratings and high earnings at the box office. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD inspired its audience with examples of God’s love.
Philippians 4:8 can inspire creators in the worthy challenge that movie-makers endeavor. They can influence, direct, and inspire an audience to seek out more examples of the true, the noble, the righteous, the pure, the lovely, and the admirable.
People want to think on these things. They yearn for God’s hope, and according to studies found in the 2013 Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry by the Christian Film and Television Commitee, they seek more of it. Movie-makers should remember that God calls the world to create characters, worlds, and messages that reflect His truth as well. The result is truly impactful and beautiful.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).