This week, I am exploring theological themes in relation to screenwriting, considering them metaphorically because in my view, we see these themes in movies all the time. By understanding them, we can use these theological themes to enhance the meaning and depth of our stories.
For background on the general subject, you may read my introductory comments in Part 1 here.
Today in Part 3: Predestination.
The concept predestination [literally "to predetermine, decide beforehand"] has its roots in an understanding that God is all powerful and all knowing, and therefore must preordain certain events to happen. The logical extreme espoused by certain groups extends to individuals, God determining who will be saved and who will not.
Setting aside the merits of this attitude and looking at the concept metaphorically in relation to story, and in particular screenplays, there is an interesting idea at work here, one I have proposed several times on this blog.
Noted analytical psychologist Carl Jung asserted:
“The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains divided and does not become conscious of his inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict.”
If we apply this idea to stories, what we may say is a Protagonist is tasked with getting in touch with and embracing all aspects of his/her psyche. If they don’t, the story universe itself forces them to.
In other words, the story you write about your Protagonist is in some ways predestined, the specific combination of the character’s psyche and life circumstances creating a synergy between how they have been living and who they are supposed to be in relation to the story universe which creates events that compel the character to move from Disunity to Unity.
In Aliens, Ripley was predestined to confront the aliens again to deal with her trauma and intersect with Newt to experience the meaningfulness of being a mother, an opportunity she had lost in the first chapter of her life saga.
In Inception, Cobb was predestined to go through everything he did with the implantation of the idea in Fischer’s mind in order to resolve his relationship with Mal and finally be able to reunite with his children.
In WALL-E, the little robot is predestined to go on its hero’s journey in order to find and save a connection with another being [EVE] and through those efforts help human beings reconnect with their home planet Earth.
In Braveheart, Wallace is predestined to fight and die, his life and martyrdom inspiring the Scots to gain their freedom and Wallace to reunite with his wife who had been murdered.
This principle extends to stories in which the Protagonist does not change, but changes others. In Forrest Gump, perhaps the ultimate story of predestination, Forrest moves from one preordained event to another, changing history at each turn, and specifically impacting the lives of Lieutenant Dan and Jenny, resulting in Forrest’s ultimate role: Father to Forrest Junior. Indeed the use of a feather is a metaphor for Forrest’s destiny:
As writers, the choices we make about characters mean that the story we tell about them is the only one we can craft. That story is endemic to that character. The story universe calls the Protagonist to an adventure, a unique destiny of metamorphosis moving from Unconscious to Conscious, Want to Need, Disunity to Unity.
What do you think? Predestination as a lens through which to look at and analyze the stories we write? An example of a character’s life-destiny and the story universe calling them to an adventure? See you in comments to discuss.
For Part 1: Sin, go here.
For Part 2: Conversion, go here.
Tomorrow: Another theological theme in screenwriting.