Saturday, May 12, 2007

Black Snake Moan

Okay, sit back, get ready, here goes: Not since The Apostle has a more spiritual mainstream movie been released than Black Snake Moan. What we have is a movie depicting the need for forgiveness and change so realistically that it will certainly offend many church goers, and yet, at the same time, cause many who has issues with Christianity respecting the real life, honest to goodness struggles of those living out their faith on the screen before them.

While many will not realize the significant symbolism of Black Snake Moan, there is so much spiritual significance to the story one might consider the story syrupy if they didn't know better. Instead, we are served one delicious cup of java that not only has the taste of delight but the aroma of a wonderful heavenly experience. While there will be some who don't like coffee, some who might even be offended at the intake of caffeine, this highly charged, captivating story will certainly delight those who want examples of living out their faith, and the power of God in his ability to change lives. Not in a overtly religious way, but in a realistic presentation that left at least this one reviewer captivated enough that he could hardly get the movie off his mind over the weekend.

Black Snake Moan is the story of change, the story of resurrection. That is evidenced when we realize the primary character Samuel L. Jackson plays is the part of a farmer in the Deep South. His name is Lazarus and the story of Lazarus in the Bible is a story that represents the resurrection of a man Jesus deeply loved. A man who lived among the people, had heartaches, hopes and dreams just like everyone else but at some point found death. While the death Lazarus experiences in the movie isn’t a physical death, it isn't far from it. He has lost his wife to his brother, has left his dreams of playing music and for all practical purposes is living a life of spiritual death, and has no vision or hope.

Lazarus, just when he thought his life had no purpose finds the abandoned body of Rae, played by Christina Ricci on the side of the road at the end of his driveway. Rae has just seen her one love, Ronnie, played by Justin Timberlake go off to prepare for the Iraq war. She doesn’t expect to see him again for some time, and Rae is a young lady who, how can one say it, suffers from, "the sickness deep down inside," that causes her to desire and engage in sexual activity with virtually anyone she can find. She is known across the community and is not hesitant about who she sleeps with. Note here, this movie is rated 'R' for good reason, from the very opening scenes we see the lifestyle and the desires of Rae. Beaten, abused, and unconscious, Lazarus decides to take her into his home to "cure her," of the evil that exists within her.

Black Snake Moan is so well layered that there are ample story lines one could approach in looking at the symbolism in this story. From the need to find your own dreams, to the chains that hold us into our sin. There are examples of how to love, how to accept, how to succeed, and how to overcome. I was genuinely impressed with the story presented.

There are certainly scenes in the movie that are riveting in the dialog, especially scenes which involve the characters sharing their faith. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie has to do with Rae speaking to Reverend R.L. played wonderfully by John Cothran Jr. In this scene, Rae asks directly and specifically about salvation and asking Jesus into her heart to change her life. She asks about the future and Heaven. Reverend R.L. answers the question in a loving, caring, yet, non judgmental way. He answers the question specifically, but also in a way that will have individuals outside of the Christian faith respecting him for his obvious love and honest answer.

It would be easy for one to focus only on the relationship of Rae and her boyfriend Ronnie. The movie is much more than that, in fact, it is as much about the resurrection of Lazarus as it is the resurrection and new birth of Rae. One of the hopes is that those watching the movie will think and apply that message to their own life.

On the technical merits of the movie, I found everything almost flawless. While there were some weak moments in the acting, I found the more the characters developed the more appropriate the actors were to the roles they played. I know many will have a great deal of issues with the sexuality, and the role of Ricci. There are characters we see painted with the darkest of brushes, but they are also characters we see change and transform. They give credibility to the message that is presented by Lazarus and the Reverend, and the ability of that message to change lives. I was also impressed with the musical score, very important when looking at southern Blues

I consider Black Snake Moan to be one of the best stories to come about in a long time. It is a story not much different than the parables Jesus taught, or other stories in the Bible where we see individuals go through change. Black Snake Moan is a reminder that God still changes lives. We may not like the story as presented, but the story presents real life, thus giving us reason to believe in real change. For those who like great stories, incorporation of real faith, I couldn't recommend Black Snake Moan high enough, especially for teens and adults. It is as much a sermon presented on screen as anything I have heard in church in a long time. If not liking getting preached to by uppity ups, or holier than thous, Black Snake Moan is a movie that can cause you to think, and think even deeper about the power of God to change lives.

On a scale of 1 - 10 for a near perfect movie I am going to give a near perfect rating of one that looks like a snake ready to strike, a thought provoking, incredible 9

Movie Trailer

7 Clips From The Movie

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