American Beauty or Christian Beauty

American Beauty or Christian Beauty - American Beauty or...

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American Beauty or Christian Beauty? Theological Aesthetics in American Beauty American Beauty , directed by Sam Mendes and written by Allen Ball, premiered on October 1, 1999. [1] The film, set in a typical modern American suburb, focuses in on the life of Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) who narrates posthumously: “My name is Lester Burnham, I’m 42 years old and in less than a year I’ll be dead. But in a way I’m dead already.” [2] At the beginning of the film Lester is depressed and cynical. He is trapped in a loveless marriage with his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening); estranged from his daughter Jane (Thora Birch), who considers her father “too embarrassing to live” [3] ; and ensnared in a job he despises. Lester’s passion for life is rekindled when he meets Jane’s friend Angela. His sexual desire for Angela sparks a transformation. Lester tries to affirm his existence by smoking marijuana, working-out, and asserting himself against his domineering wife. The other Burnham family members are simultaneously experiencing life altering changes. Carolyn has an affair and Jane falls in love with neighbor Ricky Fitts, whose reaction to his militaristic upbringing has propelled his search for beauty in every facet of life. The film culminates in Lester’s murder. American Beauty , viewed through the lens of theological aesthetics, offers insights into notions of beauty. Such aesthetics has three primary elements: first, a theological investigation into how one comes to know religious truths through sense experience; second, a theology of beauty; and third, a theology of art. [4] American Beauty engages the viewer in an exploration of a theology of beauty by asking: Where can we see beauty amid the pain, suffering, and alienation of life? The film offers two related answers to this question. First, the film suggests that true beauty cannot be found in that which traditionally has been considered beautiful. Second, there is a deeper reality associated with beauty. I have significantly re-ordered and edited these introductory paragraphs. Generally, however – if the author can strengthen the conclusion, then the introduction might be able to be sharpened and refined a bit, as well. Several scenes in the film emphasize the importance of looking beyond the superficial in ord true beauty. The tag line of the film is “look closer… .” The film illustrates this theme by asso traditional indicators of beauty- - symmetry, nature, and physical beauty- - with the negative the positive. For example, when the Burnham’s are eating a family dinner, the camera pushe on a scene that is starkly symmetrical. Each family member is positioned around a large tab equidistant from the other. Carolyn and Lester are positioned at opposite ends of the table, w daughter Jane sits in the middle. While the scene appears to be perfect, in reality the family miserable. Each member is alienated from the other. The three characters are spread out ar table creating large gaps. These gaps symbolize the isolation and fragmentation within the f behind the picture perfect exterior suggested by the scene’s symmetry.
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This note was uploaded on 08/24/2010 for the course SMC 305 taught by Professor Harris during the Spring '09 term at University of Toronto.

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American Beauty or Christian Beauty - American Beauty or...

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