11 October 2014 | Bruce_Young
A reminder of the meaning and possibilities of human life
I would have given the film 9.5 out of 10 if that had been an option. I want to save a perfect 10 for perfection when and if I run into it. But for me, this film comes close.
No film can be everything to everyone. But this film provide both a visual and an emotional feast for anyone who is open to it. I suspect that those who resist the magic of this film may be saying more about themselves than about the film's content--and if there's resistance, I suspect it begins with the very thought of joining in a celebration of the lives of Mormons or any people driven by faith or perhaps even with the thought of joining in a celebration at all. (Imagine how Dr. House might react.)
"Meet the Mormons" is one of the most beautiful and inspiring films I have seen. All of the segments are fascinating and inspiring, and in many, the cinematography is stunning. The last one especially, though in some ways quieter, keeps tugging at your heart after you've left the theater.
It's hard to compare "Meet the Mormons" to other films. It's a documentary, but it feels more like an adventure, an intense experience with life compressed into a little over an hour. Though the two films are very different, it reminds me in some ways of "The Tree of Life," except that "Meet the Mormons" is intelligible on a first viewing. But it is also rich enough to deserve repeated viewings.
It is entertaining, illuminating, moving, at times breathtaking. It is not preachy, but there is a sort of theme, or an intertwined set of themes. Themes that stand out include the insight that every individual matters, that each of us has a role to play in the magnificent symphony of life. Another theme is the power of goodness--especially in the sense that word is used by the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas: "being-for-the-other." Every one of the people featured in the film has found meaning and purpose because of relationships with others and because of a desire to serve and bless others. As Levinas suggests, that is essentially what it means to be human: to be responsible to and in relationship with others. To welcome that responsibility is to enjoy a rich and meaningful existence. To resist it is to be diminished.
In a sense, then, "Meet the Mormons" is a reminder of the meaning and the wondrous possibilities of human life.