In the business of theology it is hard not to be controversial - Jurgen Moltmann

Saturday, 30 October 2004

Film Stuff: Deep Blue

Deep Blue (dir. Andy Byatt & Alastair Fothergill, UK & Germany 2003)
§ Viewed @Filmhouse @ £2.2

Stunning, awesome, spectacular … I can easily run out of adjectives for describing my feeling toward this documentary about the ocean. The sheer view of tens and hundreds of dolphins dashing on the surface of the sea, or hundreds of sharks gathering are haunting images. The shots of thousands of smaller fish swirling around are just like Finding Nemo in the real world.
I think it is a theatrical release version of the BBC series Blue Planet. Some of the shots are familiar, such as a killer whale catching the young seal at the shore and throwing it around into the air, and also killer whales chasing after a baby grey whale for several hours trying to separate it from its mother. But it is more than an abridged edition. It is nicely scripted, beautifully edited, superbly scored with original music played by the Berlin Philharmonic. Different from many BBC documentaries, its narration is minimal, only to provide basic facts to enhance appreciation of the film. I have not watched nature documentaries on a big screen for a long time. (Or have I ever?) It is quite an experience to view this in a cinema, only that the screen should be even bigger.

There is a point of theological reflection in watching these nature documentaries. I remember David Attenborough once said something like this: How can I claim a loving and merciful and good creator when I see with my own eyes the sheer cruelty of nature – a killer whale playing around with a baby seal before killing it?
Does that really refute the notion of a creator who is at the same time totally good and omnipotent? Does that indicate that there is something inherently evil in the animal world, in nature, and thus in the creation – and would therefore negate the possibility of a universal moral force / order? (Well, okay, I am jumping steps here.) OR: is it simply to be understood as a ‘food chain’ thing? I’ll try to check if the works of Andrew Linzey (animal theology) address this issue. (Probably not.)
That's interesting. I have never thought of the theologies of nature and of creation from such perspectives. It can be a tremendous theological issue; and its complexity probably explains the anthropocentrism in mainstream theological works – in our theological construction / reflection, we are only able to deal with the human world; apart from our own species we are unable to say anything, or even uninterested.
Yes, I feel heart stricken when I watch those scenes of nature’s brutality. It is somewhat unbearable to a nature / animal lover such as me. But why do I not feel the same when I see the birds (albatross) diving to catch fish, or dolphins catching fish, or sharks eating fish in the deep seabed? It can be something very personal – that I feel emotionally closer to other mammals, and that somehow explains why I am still a vegetarian only on land.
But, at certain moments during the film, I was telling myself that I would probably refrain from eating fish; or at least, as a compromise, to eat still less seafood than present.
(originally written on 8 July 2004)

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