I want to pick up on a couple of the themes of the film that may be worth exploring with the young people you work with (if they’ve seen it). As always I would suggest using the reel faith template of questions when creating a discussion.
Justice and Forgiveness
These two themes run throughout the film and can make for a very lively discussion. After learning that the woman in black is killing children because she is still angry about the death of her son, Kipps takes matters into his own hands and believes that if he can reunite the mother and child then the mother will finally be able to rest. She will be able to find peace and the horror will end.
He finds the body of her son in the marsh and carries him back to the house. The woman in back turns up to reclaim him and Kipp believes that peace has been found. But things are not that simple. We hear the ghostly voice of the woman say “I will never forgive” and in the climax of the film, she leads Kipps son on to the railway tracks as an oncoming train approaches. Kipps runs to save him and both are killed.
The woman in black is driven by vengeance and a twisted view of justice. Because her child was taken from her, she believes that every child should be taken away. She believes that every parent should feel the same pain that she did. It was her lack of forgiveness that killed her and it is that unforgiveness that will torment the village for eternity.
Anger is a serious thing. Unforgiveness is a serious thing. What does it take to forgive someone? Are there people that we are unwilling to forgive?
The woman in black sought vengeance and anger and she found it. It destroyed her life and the countless other lives of the villagers.
What motivates us and leads our lives? Is it anger? A thirst for revenge? Is there another way? Does Jesus offer something different?
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Half way through the film, Daily (played by Ciaran Hinds) says to Arthur Kipps (Randliffe), “if we open the door to superstition, where does that lead?” Daily plays the rational character of the story. He is well aware that many of his neighbours have said they have seen the ‘woman in black’ and in fact his own wife has been driven insane by her but he chooses not to believe it. The world is a rational place and everything can be explained. He urges Kipps not to pursue this line of enquiry as who knows where it will lead.
I find this whole idea fascinating. Both characters, Daily and Kipps have a specific worldview. They filter everything they see and hear through those particular lenses. Daily rationalises the occurrences away as nothing more than brain trickery. Kipps sees the same things but chooses to believe that the woman in black is real and both of those worldviews have particular consequences.
For Daily, it results in him not getting the right care for his wife and ignoring her ‘eccentric’ actions. Their marriage is damaged as a result. For Kipps, it ultimately results in the death of both his son and him.
These words of Jesus’ are recorded in the gospels:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Whatever we seek, we will find. I believe that to be true. If we choose to see the world through a particular lens, then we will filter everything through that lens and it will be a self fulfilling prophecy. There is nothing inherently wrong with that but what is vital is that each of us are aware of the lenses that we wear and that others may not have the same ones.
What lenses do your young people wear? How do they believe the world works? How do you work with people who have a different worldview than yours?
I run a website with fellow ICC graduate Mark Williamson called reel faith which seeks to offer an alternative view on how films should be used in youth work. I taught an open evening lecture on the subject at the international christian college on Thursday 1st March and myself and Mark are speaking about the same issue at the youthwork summit in London on May 19th. I have also written a number of blog posts on the subject of why we should no longer be using two minute clips from films to simply make a theological point. Read them here or here.
As you can see, dialogue between film and faith is incredibly important to me.
At the lecture at ICC I offered a couple of practical ways films could be introduced into your youth work programme and over the next couple of blogs, I want to outline those ideas.
One Month Film Study
Start by showing the film at your group on the first week of the month. Show the film in its entirety and have a discussion using the questions I have suggested previously. What will become obvious is that there will be two or three major themes that the young people highlight from any given film and on that evening you can have a brief discussion about those themes and find out what the young people think about them.
For the three remaining three weeks I would suggest looking at one theme a night. I find this a great way to do youth work as the talks and discussions you will then be giving for the rest of the month have been suggested by the young people. It is issues that they want to wrestle and grapple with and the young people should be more engaged with you because of that. It also means that rather than coming with your own agenda for a particular film, you are letting the film speak for itself and allowing open dialogue to flow out of it.
So in theory you could do two or three films over a year and spend a month looking at each one of them. You are no longer spoon feeding young people about issues within films and instead are giving them the tools to critically engage with film and culture in general themselves.
An example could be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Week 1- show the film
Week 2- ‘Going against the flow’
Week 3- ‘Integrity’
Week 4- ‘Sacrifice’
Have a go yourselves and put your comments and thoughts up on here or on the reel faith site. We’d love to hear them.