“Then I saw it, I saw a mom who would die for her son, a man who would kill for his wife, a boy, angry & alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it & the path was a circle, round & round.”
The first film I watched post Christian conversion was Looper, the time travel adventure from which the above quote is taken. Could I have asked for a better start to my movie watching career? I make it no secret that I am only here due to the grace and love of Almighty God, His grace extending to the way I experience and process cinema. The themes present in Looper would open the door for me to view movies as much more than just images on the screen, giving way to the exploration of the idea of love as the ultimate catalyst that molds human behavior. This culminated with the discovery that film presented the reality given voice by the apostle when he cries out “what a wretched man I am! who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
Listen to Me Marlon is an illuminating document on the pressing need for a Savior. It is a fascinating, sometimes deeply rueful account of a man who had everything. I would have loved to have his money! But speaking more to my nature, I would have loved to possess his good looks and flirtatious demeanor! There’s a scene depicting Marlon Brandon talking up a reporter who’s interviewing him, and it’s something to behold. His smirk, knowing full well she’s liking what he’s saying; her averted gaze, not believing this is actually happening. Here’s a man who knows he can get anybody he wants. How cool is that?
Of course the easy thing to say now would be, “but even after having everything, he was still unhappy. money doesn’t buy happiness!”. But that would miss the point entirely, removing any nuance from our lives and painting those with material wealth as less noble than the rest of us. Indeed, the documentary features many scenes of a Brandon entirely at bliss. The goal of the documentary is never to make us pity Marlon Brandon, nor is it asking us to understand him (is understanding a life, even our own, ever possible?). No, for the 100 minutes that Marlon Brando speaks directly to us the goal is quite simple: empathize.
Empathize not with a universally beloved movie star, but with a human being who was born on the same planet as the rest of us. Indeed, Brando’s story is our story, the small details varying but the overall picture looking the same: a life in a world with pain as its principal currency, with every soul aching for a more permanent release than wealth, or family, or sex.
And so as a circle that goes round and round, we’re back at the quote that opened this piece. If you’ve seen Looper, you know that immediately after uttering those words, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the protagonist of the story, sacrifices himself to break the vicious circle of hopelessness. We too have somebody who sacrificed himself for us, for each and every one of us, so we could be free. I think you already know His name.