The God-Shaped Hole!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ratatouille - An inverse of Cars?

When I was telling my dad how great Ratatouille was, I said it was "better than Cars." He expressed doubt toward my evaluation. Later, when I was thinking about it, I realized I had not, in my mind, actually compared the two films, both of which I liked; once I did, I learned a lesson neither film explicitely stated.

Cars is a story about a talented young star, the best in his field, who learns a lesson about his own mortality, and gives up glory for friendship and honor.

Ratatouille is a story about a talented young unknown, gifted but bereft of resources, who gains a chance to prove himself, and uses family and friends to achieve greatness.

These stories seem, at second glance, to be polar opposites - one is about giving up fame and glory for friends and family, the other is about letting go of social bonds to seek greatness.

However, there is a common bond between the two stories. They are both about passion, about what a person thinks is beautiful and worth protecting or enhancing. Cars is about Lightning McQueen's love for the town and people of Radiator Springs, Ratatouille about Remy's love for creating fine cuisine. Both are willing to sacrifice their past, and willing to deny others' expectations of them, in order to achieve their dream.

The films are vitally different in this specific aspect: McQueen unconsciously accepts, then consciously rejects, the prevalent social mentality of his community of origination (the racing community and industry). Remy consciously rejects his family's expectations from the beginning, at first subtly, then in a double life, then flat-out making his own way.

They have a striking similarity: by chasing their dreams, they achieve both a family prour of them, and fame and success, though not as originally envisioned.

Both are about a passion for success, but there is a lesson to be learned in the differences of how each story illustrates success:

To be successful, you must define success for yourself, and strive for it.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ratatouille - A Gently Postmodern Tale

I saw Pixar/Disney's Ratatouille last night. I was thoroughly impressed. I was especially impressed by Brad Bird, who directed the film, and co-wrote the screenplay. I've been impressed by his work since Iron Giant, and The Incredibles.

This is one of the most richly told tales I've seen in a long time. It surpassed what the trailer promised, and rare is the film that manages that feat.

The story managed to juggle the Hero's Journey for two characters, while weaving a tapestry of French cuisine, culture, and community. It is also a well-told funny animal tale, which is always a delicate balance between adaption of human mores and a sense of reality.

One thing that surprised me was the subtle ease with which truly dramatic elements were included in the film. Death was present at several points, as was a mention of children born out of wedlock, shown without praise or shame.

But the most startling facet for me as a philosopher was the inclusion of several postmodern concepts. They were gently but firmly introduced.

When Remy tells his father that change is the way of the natural world, my jaw dropped. According to emerging postmodern thought, as well as Eastern philosophies, change is good and stasis is bad (though sometimes useful). Modernism holds the opposite, that stasis is stability and change is decay; that concept was cribbed whole cloth from the ancient Greeks, who said that the realm of Spirit or Mind is permanent, but Body or the physical realm are subject to decay.

Later in the film, Remy rejects the social constructs of Rat and Human, and positively affirms, "I am a chef." He does not allow The System to control him, but seeks his dreams, no matter the cost. In the case of this film, The System is the antagonism between Human and Pest, between Producer and Thief.

In all, it is a great story told well, and a gentler introduction to postmodernism than The Matrix (and more easily explained).

As far as the virtues of God being revealed in a secular work of art, I can mention humility, honesty, passion for one's work, taking joy in things of beauty, a willingness to help family and neighbors, and finding the place in life that is a right fit for the talents you were given.

I can, in good conscience, recommend this film to everyone of all ages, creeds, and worldviews.