I went to see A Quiet Place, John Krasinski’s new thriller, with absolutely no anticipation of finding theological or spiritual themes. I just wanted a fun evening at the movies. How wonderful when a film surprises you! I don’t know if I can find the golden thread that draws all of these themes together into a coherent message, but I think one would have to be blind not to see a number of religious motifs in this absorbing film.
The basic structure of the narrative is laid out in simple, deft strokes. We learn that a terrible plague of fierce, devouring creatures has descended on Earth. Where are the monsters from? Outer space, maybe? We’re never told – which makes the story more compelling. The few people who have survived the holocaust have learned that the creatures, though blind, are extraordinarily acute of hearing. Therefore, the key to survival is silence. Our attention becomes focused on the Abbott family, two youthful parents and three small children, making their quiet way through a beautiful but dangerous open country. When the youngest of the kids flips a switch on his toy rocket, causing a buzzing sound to pierce the silence, one of the beasts devours him just before his terrified father can save him.
We flash-forward several months and we watch the Abbotts (can the name have possibly been accidental?) going about their lives in what could only be characterised as a monastic manner: no conversations above a whisper, elaborate sign language, quiet work at books and in the fields, silent but obviously fervent prayer before the evening meal, etc.
(I will confess that this last gesture, so thoroughly absent from movies and television today, startled me.) Given the awful demands of the moment, any gadgets, machines, electronic entertainment or noisy implements are out of the question. Their farming is by hand; their fishing is done with pre-modern equipment; even their walking about is done barefoot.
What is most marvellous to behold is that, in this prayerful, quiet, pre-modern atmosphere, even with the threat of imminent death constantly looming, a generous and mutually self-sacrificing family flourishes. The parents care for and protect their children, and the remaining brother and sister are solicitous towards one another and towards their parents. The young girl even regularly risks her life to pay silent tribute to her fallen brother at the spot where he was killed.
Monsters and beasts in the more reflective horror movies are evocative of those things that frighten us the most: illness, failure, our own wickedness, death itself. How wonderful that a Hollywood movie would suggest that what is needed to keep the darkness at bay in our time is silence, simplicity, a return to the earth, prayer and care for one another.
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