The Saviour and the True Meaning of Love

The SaviourFollowing is the complete video of the 2005 short film, The Saviour. It is written and directed by Australian filmmaker Peter Templeman. And it is a good example of something I tell people all the time: short films are generally far better than feature films. I think there is a simple reason for this. Most feature films don’t have 90 minutes of content. They are padded. What’s more, feature films are expected to make money. So they are far more commodity than art. Short films are generally works of love and so are artful or at least reflect the filmmaker. And they are as long as they need to be. No one ever pads a ten minute film with five minutes of nonsense just to reach that magic 15 minute length.

The Saviour is a magical film. I suppose that everyone will see it in their own way and I highly recommend watching it before you read what I have to say. I don’t believe in “spoilers,” but The Saviour is the kind of film where you really ought to make up your own mind before allowing me to poison you. The basic story is that a young Christian missionary has had an affair with a married woman he is trying to convert. She has cut it off, and he is obsessed. He believes he will save her from what must be a bad marriage, given that she was willing to commit adultery with him.

So, have you watched it? It is 16 minutes of your life that you won’t regret.

The essence of the film is love. This film shows the dreary and selfish desire to convert people to your own faith. For the church institutions, this is pure economics: filling the pews on Sunday. But for the believers, it is all about Jesus supposedly calling his followers to be “fishers of men.” Personally, I find this a misreading of the Bible. I think the Bible was meant to be read by church leaders. The idea that all believers should be out in the world annoying people by trying to convert their neighbors is just madness. It turns them into Amway salesman.

In the film, the woman, Carmel, has a need. She and her husband have been trying to have a child for ten years. And their lack of success has clearly caused stress in their marriage. So the young missionary Malcolm has the ability to solve her problem, save her marriage, and maybe even save her life. But he’s not able to do that in the way he wants: first by converting her to Christianity and finally by converting her to his wife.

But that’s why I say it is about love. A Christian converting a non-believer is no kind of gift. It is actually a narcissistic act — one that makes the missionary feel better about himself and his belief system. In this case, however, Malcolm acts as a Christ figure. He experiences that terrible teenage infatuation denied and leaves crushed. But his pain has provided great joy to Carmel and her husband Tony.

There is a very funny line that Malcolm delivers right after learning of the pregnancy but before his emotional exit. He pushes the Bible forward and says, “This is full of miracles like the one you’ve just experienced, Tony.” Coming from an old atheist like me, that means, “The Bible is filled with non-miracles.” But in a sense, the pregnancy is a miracle. The missionaries may think that their jobs are to convert people. But Jesus was more about spreading hope to the poor in spirit, those who morn, the meek. And more of Jesus’ love was bestowed on “number 34” than in all the houses where the missionaries managed to bring people into church.

Afterword

This film is on the DVD A Collection of 2006 Academy Award Nominated Short Films. There are a number of them. I have this one as well as the 2005 and 2007 versions. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

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