Film Friday: Viceroy’s House

It is 1947 and Lord Louis arrives in India with Lady Mountbatten, as the last British Viceroy, to oversee the handing over of power. One of the main issues is the division of the country and the possible creation of a new state of Pakistan. As the plans for the partitioning play out, a Romeo and Juliet style romance blossoms, making the story of separation very personal indeed. Aalia is from a Muslim family, Jeet is a Hindu, will they be torn apart as the old and new leaders of the country wrestle for a peaceful handing over of power?

The people’s lives are affected very personally as the politics plays out. In the grand scheme of things this is about the creation of two nations, founded on different religions. In reality some of the people will lose their homes, their safety, and even their lives. The director of this film, Gurinder Chadha, was personally affected by the change that took place. As the nation grew increasingly divided so the violence escalated. The grand battles fought over issues and principals always affect the small people. The ordinary ones. We see this powerfully portrayed in the lives of Aalia and Jeet, two people beginning to love each other, whose affection is torpedoed by the actions of others.

‘Why do the nations rage?’ asks the writer of Psalm 2, ‘Why do the people concoct their vain schemes?’ The writers of the Bible do not pretend that this sort of thing does not happen, and has not been happening since the dawn of time. Since that day when Cain took his brother for a walk that ended in bloodshed and death, people have attempted to solve their problems with a fist and a violent plan. The issues are complex and not easily solved, but time and again other kinds of people rise up in times of trouble. Folks of peace and hope, like Mother Theresa, Oscar Schindler and Paul Rusesabagina. Paul’s story is told in the film Hotel Rwanda, how he saved 1268 lives, rescuing innocent folks from the violent militia in 1994 Rwanda.

And ultimately, of course, Jesus. The peace-making God who, rather than staying safe behind heaven’s closed doors, subjected himself to the people who plot and rage in this world, offering himself as a mysterious, extraordinary, reconciling kind of sacrifice, one that would change things forever. He became a man and humbled himself all the way to death on a cross. (Philippians 2 v 5-11) One day there will be no more crying or loss, violence or pain, so says Revelation 21, but until then we wrestle with the dark forces of this world, looking to Jesus and his costly sacrifice, for help and hope and purpose.

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