Thursday, February 28, 2013

Movie Review: Once Upon A Forest

One morning in the forest, four young animals are learning about the ways of the forest from a wise older animal. Unknown to them, a truck carrying poison gas has wrecked on the nearby road, and the gas is drifting through the forest. The young animals and their mentor all escape from the gas, except for one of the young animals, who is sickened but not killed by the gas. Her only hope is if the other three young animals will journey to a faraway place to find the herbs to heal her.

Since I liked this movie as a child, I wanted to like this movie now. However, after a decent though not memorable start, this movie doesn’t ever live up to the promise of its premise. The story has holes and rambles about for most of the movie, constantly overshadowed by the sense that it could have been much better. The animation has no moments of greatness, though it is sometimes quite good. Twice characters randomly started singing, and it felt out of place.

This movie isn’t a  complete disaster, but it’s adequate entertainment only for children who are interested in the cute animals. Violence is fairly mild. Some animals are killed by the poison gas that leaks, and menacing enemies such as a ravenous owl pursue the protagonists, all of which could disturb small children. The young animals in this movie generally act like brats, but the protagonists, at least, learn better by the end.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Snake and Dove Principle for Writers

Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. -- Matthew 10:16b (NIV)

Though it might not seem to be, this command from Jesus is very applicable to writing. As writers, many of us will be called to deal with tough subjects, from sexual immorality to abuse to murder. How we deal with these subjects and the content that may be associated with them will have a significant impact on our stories.

It is not an easy thing to have stories that are both shrewd and innocent, but it is necessary to have both qualities, so that we keep from whitewashing everything or drowning in the darkness of the world. Writers with good intentions can easily fall into the rut of one side or the other.

Most of the writers who are wary of tough subjects don’t truly want to hide them, just be careful about them. There is certainly a place for “safe” fiction, but in general if tough subjects are handled they need to be faced rather than skirted around. Otherwise the story may be weakened or ineffective.

Most of the writers who explore the darkness of the world truly want to reveal the light and bring change. However, they can get desensitized to the darkness and let it have too much influence over their writing, so that their message is contaminated or hidden. Stories that are too explicit are even more flawed than stories that are too timid.

A balance is needed, and the Bible makes it clear what that balance is: Giving a shrewd assessment of the problem and the solution, while portaying it in a way that preserves the innocence of the author and the readers.

If we keep our writing equally shrewd and innocent, with the courage to face tough issues head on and the wisdom to handle those issues carefully, then we will succeed in writing powerful stories that reveal God’s truth.

If you are a writer who deals with tough subjects, have you sought to make your writing both shrewd and innocent? Have you encountered authors who have gone to one extreme or the other in their stories instead of finding balance?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

This book was co-written by John and Elizabeth Sherrill.

Corrie Ten Boom grows up contentedly in Holland during the years leading up to World War II. She lives with her family in a house that also contains their watch shop, where her father is a watchmaker. As the years pass, only Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father remain at the house. When Nazis invade Holland, the Ten Boom family notices the persecution of the Jews, and begins hiding Jews in their home. Eventually the Nazis figure out part of what is going on and arrest Corrie, her sister, and their father. This brave trio is imprisoned, and only one of them will survive to tell their story.

Whether it is due to good writing or that the story being told is true, the first thing you will notice with The Hiding Place is the vividness of the characters and the setting. You can envision the house that Corrie lives in much of her life, the city the house is in, and alternately, the nightmarish concentration camps. To an even greater degree, you can envision Corrie and her siblings and parents and friends and enemies. The story being told, of triumph in all circumstances due to Christ, is powerful on its own, and even more so when illustrated with such colorful details.

Since much of the real horror of the Nazis is described, this is not a book to approach lightly. Various people are beaten, killed, stripped naked, and treated in other horrible ways. Adult topics are referenced without going into detail. Since the dark things depicted in this book are all unfortunately a part of our lost world, and everyone can be inspired by the way God helps Corrie overcome these things, this is a book that everyone who is old enough to handle the intensity should read. Parental discretion and discussion of the book is recommended for younger readers.