A commentary on Woody Allen’s “Match Point”
[note: this essay contains spoilers for “Match Point”]
Spin. In today’s culture, all information is spun. It doesn’t matter what the facts actually are, whether they support or refute your argument; you can always convince people of your side (this was humorously demonstrated by Aaron Eckhart in “Thank You for Smoking”). Working for a radio station, a television station, a church, and now in the music industry, I’ve often seen the discrepancies between the “full story” and the information actually presented to the public. I’m always amused at how easily people can be convinced of a position after being given only a small slice of the information, the parts that will help them see the speaker’s point.
That, I think, is one of the reasons apologetics is not as effective today as it may have been 50 years ago. In the information age we are living in, people are overwhelmed by facts and arguments and opinions. If you argue one thing, I can easily find several other viewpoints, just as well argued, and oftentimes using the same facts, only with a different conclusion. If I’m not immersed in the same sub-culture as you, starting with the same presuppositions, you’re not likely to persuade me with what may seem to you airtight arguments and indisputable facts.
So, whenever I’m asked why I believe in God, I don’t bring up historical evidence or talk about a “God-shaped hole” or hints I think I’ve seen of Him in my life. I talk about Woody Allen’s film “Match Point”. Why would I choose the most nihilistic film in recent memory to explain my belief in God? Because of the ending. For those not familiar with the film, it is basically a remake of Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” but without the humor, as he has said that he feels it detracts too much from the point he was trying to make. Caught in an affair, Chris, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, decides to murder his mistress, played by Scarlett Johansson, after she starts insisting that he leave his wife. He is comfortable in his “real life”, and doesn’t want it disturbed. But he is aware that his decided course of action is wrong, and he decides that God, if there is a God, could not let his actions go unpunished. He is even intentionally a little careless in his execution of the murder, half hoping that he will be caught, helping out God, if you will. And when, purely by chance, a key piece of evidence that he tries to discard lands on the wrong side of the fence, later resulting in his exoneration, he is convinced of the non-existence of God. Everything comes down to luck and chance.
Shortly after seeing the film, I read a review by a Rabbi who said that, after watching the last scene, after seeing the expression on Chris’ face and his reaction to what should be one of the happiest days of his life, the birth of his son, we are left with one question: If God is dead, as Woody Allen wants to believe, with this film, is Allen spitting in God’s face or crying over His grave? And I think you have to conclude that he is crying over God’s grave. He is truly convinced that there is no reason for anything that happens, that everything is left to chance, and therefore nothing means anything. And he is heartbroken about it. Pleasure, joy, even life itself, is futile.
I told a friend a couple weeks ago that I don’t think I could listen to jazz and be an atheist. Sitting there with a glass of wine in my hand, the music washing over me, I find it impossible not to believe in something more. I hear the same echos of eternity in Mahler’s 9th Symphony and in Górecki’s 3rd Symphony, in the songs of guys like Andrew Peterson and Andrew Osenga. And I’m grateful for those moments, thankful for reminders of what I too easily doubt, whenever I hear them in music, see them in film, or come across them in the pages of books. To quote Jeffrey Overstreet, “God heals us through creation and art”.