Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Suspension of Disbelief.

As previously noted, I've been meaning to comment for a while on The Polar Express. The film's stunning visuals are its prime selling point: perfectly capturing the look of the book on which it is based, The Polar Express provides a perfect mix of the real and mundane with the surreal and fantastic. On another level, however, the movie offers an intriguing parable of religious faith, with the principal characters serving as archetypes of different varieties of belief. Hero Boy is the sincere skeptic who wrestles with the existence of God (represented, of course, by Santa Claus) before having something akin to a religious vision that turns him into a confirmed believer. Hero Girl, who never doubts that Santa is real, was a true believer from the get-go and is tapped by Tom Hanks' Conductor (who, I guess, represents organized religion) as a sort of inspirational leader figure. Lonely Boy (who, for what it's worth, is the spitting image of Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle) isn't so much a skeptic as an indifferentist. Christmas (or religion) just doesn't deliver him the benefits that make practice worthwhile, so he doesn't bother - until, like Hero Boy, he has an experience that makes a believer of him. I don't suppose that any of these thoughts are original; I'm sure someone somewhere has expressed them in print or online, though I regret I don't have the time to track down relevant links. In the alternative and for what it's worth, I'm happy to point out that The Polar Express also has a vague connection to the Society of Jesus. The train in the film was inspired by an actual Michigan locomotive, sounds of which were recorded for cinematic use. The name of the star loco? The Pere Marquette. AMDG.


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