Film Friday: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is not in fact a scene from The Great Escape. It’s from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. And yet it is also from The Great Escape. It’s a scene where Steve McQueen (the Cooler King) is caught approaching the wire fence surrounding the person camp. And yet… Steve is nowhere to be seen. Because Leonardo DiCaprio has been computer generated in instead. Copied and pasted in. It’s not a recreation of the scene, it really is the scene, but we are being conned. And I have to confess I find it extraordinary and fascinating. How did they do it? How long did it take to remove the original Cooler King? The Great Escape is one of my all-time favourite films which was why my heart leapt a little when it appeared like this in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film.

We live in an age where digital is everything. And I don’t think that’s much of an exaggeration. Our phones, our books, our films, our homework, our shopping, our messages, our video calling and very recently our church services, sermons, workouts, puppet shows, choirs, prayers, concerts and other interactive activities are dependent on digital technology. You are reading this reflection as a part of all that. Last evening all around the country we applauded the NHS, a gathering made possible by social media. I love what is now possible. And in these unprecedented days it’s more vital than ever. Extraordinary. Brilliant. But we have also created another kind of digital monster. Electronic fakery. We can no longer believe all that we see. And we know that. We are made aware of that. Here’s some fun fakery.

We follow a man who claimed not just to tell the truth and live it, but who said he was the truth. We’re told that in him there was nothing false at all. Nothing fake. He wasn’t trying to dupe us, or sell us something, or make himself into a celebrity, or use us in any way. He was about something else. Leading us into the truth about life, ourselves, the world and God. And not merely for the sake of it. In the film Dead Poet’s Society the character of Todd creates a line of poetry – ‘Truth is like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.’ Truth on its own can be like that. Stark. Harsh. Brittle even. But truth laced with compassion, with the desire to transform for good, now that is life-giving truth. And that, I believe, is Jesus. In these unprecedented days the friendship, the compassion, the strength of the God who is with us, the calming presence of the Prince of Peace, is a vital gift. The one who is an ever-present help in trouble, the one who promises to give us peace amidst the storms. The one who has walked our way and knows how disruptive life can be. He is here, he understands. He holds us in his hand.

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