Sunday, July 17, 2011

Faith or Not, You Have to Leap

Steve Martin has made a bundle of movies. Of those I've seen, three stand out: the revealing view of superficial society in LA Story, the sensitive modernized version of Cyrano de Bergerac in Roxanne, and the naked take on fake religion suddenly becoming real in Leap of Faith. This is about the last one, right now my favorite – although maybe because I just saw it anew.

Steve Martin plays a fake healer doing his con jobs on the road. His team is stuck in a small farmer town while waiting for a spare part for one of their trucks, and he decides to put up shop, not to have the time wasted. He meets readily mesmerized peasants, but one can have too much of a good thing.

The film deals with faith and doubt in a very hands-on way, still not simplifying the question. Nowadays, most young intellectuals take pride in sneering on religion altogether, but they are in a haste. Church is one thing, religion another, and spirituality a third entity still in dire need of contemplation.

This universe has no easy answers. Our time might in some ways be wiser than past eras, but in other ways quite the opposite.

The secret to faith and spirituality is the simple fact that whatever the atoms are doing, the human world is never more real than what we experience through our senses and our mental processing of them. In that perspective, miracles happen and many things are not what they seem. Occasionally it's true for atoms as well.

In the movie, Steve Martin's character faces all of his demons when suddenly a real miracle happens, much to his frustration. But when it's happened, he accepts and acts accordingly.

Steve Martin is a fireworks style of actor, which suits this role fine. Liam Neeson plays an insufferably decent policeman, so it's impossible for him not to fail slightly with the role. Lukas Haas, a longtime favorite of mine, is the boy who proves what belief can really do, and there's something about that actor making it impossible for him to fail. Are they sort of the good, the bad, and the ugly? Certainly, in a fashion.

Lukas Haas getting healed, to everyone's surprise.

Although there's humor and drama, the film is mainly sentimental – in abundance. Well, so am I. How else to relate to life, this steep roller coaster ride, with mathematically equal numbers of wondrous ups and devastating downs?

Mainly, I am captured by its clever way of tackling religious issues. There is blind faith taken advantage of, but as things turn out – is that faith really blind? Through human history, we've had the knack of sticking to methods that somehow work for us. Religion is one of them, even in our present enlightened day. In spite of scientific progress, the mystery remains.

That's because science doesn't really tackle the mystery. It deals with other perspectives, because its tools are the wrong ones to deal with faith, magic, and spiritual things. Art, on the other hand, handles these things with utmost relevance. It's made up of them, or vice versa.

So, even if faith might not be excactly the right word for it, there's certainly reason for a leap. If you never do, you never lived.

Here's the film on DVD at Amazon