Since the first films jerked their way across the screens at the very end of the nineteenth century it has been obvious that they were a new and powerful medium for the communication of ideas. Certainly all dictatorships have thought so and their political content has been the subject of furious debate and even rioting.
The highly visual nature of the medium has meant that some ideas have been easier than others to articulate on screen. More particularly the very dispersed nature of of the benefits that accrue to market economies have made them difficult to display in the medium. It is easy to show the job that was created by government activity but impossible to show the job which was not created because of the high taxation to fund the job created by government or the job destroyed by excessive regulation. on the other hand film is good at capturing the value of small local institutions which leads us directly to:
Étre et Avoir by the French documentary film maker Nicholas Philibert. This is an astonishingly, beautiful and heart breaking film about a school in rural France. Although the director explicitly disavows interest in big ideas the film makes the Burkean point in a low key way.
Along the same lines is the documentary about a small community in the far west of Wales Sleeping Furiously; here the focus is broader, including for example the role of religion, hence the impact is less. But it can compared properly with Philibert’s classic on which it is, to some extent, based.
The Glory of My Father and its sequel My Mother’s Castleonce again we have here French film making at its best. These autobiographical films deal with the childhood of a French scientist, his relationship with his parents and his peers of both sexes. The importance of family can never have been more beautifully celebrated and both films deal sensitively with the clash between free thought and Catholicism in early twentieth century France. Also well worth seeing is Choir, set in a French school just after the war in 1945, which is concerned with the sometimes agonizing process of coming to terms with reality.
A wonderful film that celebrates the value of filial affection is The Straight Story. When WW Straight, who did not have a driving license, heard his estranged brother was dying he set out across the American Mid-West, to see him, on a mowing machine.
Another film concerned with the value of the small community , in this case the Amish of Pennsylvania, is Witness starring Harrison Ford. Michael Medved says “The portrayal of the Amish and their uncompromising rejection of modernity is not only sympathetic, it is idealised.” The house raising scene in which a group of neighbours pull the wooden frame of a house into place is an unforgettable piece of cinema
C.S. lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein were close friends and colleagues at Oxford. Both were blessed with vivid imaginations which were informed by the shared Christian faith. No one should miss the Three films , directed by peter Jackson, which make up the Lord of The Rings trilogy based on the books by Tolkein and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe based on the book by Lewis.
Staying with the Oxford theme Chariots of Fire celebrates both the aristocratic values of a now vanished world and those of “muscular” Christianity.
- The conflicts between the old and the new have been a problem for conservatives since Burke. Consequently they are likely will be interested by Gone With The Wind and by The Leopard, both of which are sympathetic, perhaps too sympathetic, to the old order in respectively the Southern States of America and Sicily after its absorption by the new Kingdom of Italy.