The God-Shaped Hole!

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.


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