Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I have often used music videos and youtube clips in the classroom. For example, one of my favorite is to show U2’s “Until the End of the World” after reading the synoptic accounts of Jesus arrests and discussing the political and apocalyptic meaning of Jesus' execution. One movie that I would love to have the opportunity to use at some point is Guillermo del Toro's Pan’s Labyrinth as a way to teach the genre of apocalypse.
John Collins notes the defining characteristics of apocalyptic literature:
"An apocalypse is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world." (Semeia 14 [1979]:9)

An aspect not noted here is that apocalypse is most meaningful, or perhaps only meaningful during crisis, for it provides hope for escape. Pan’s Labyrinth fits the genre of apocalypse perfectly.

Ofelia, who suffers because of war, the cruelty of her stepfather and the pain of her ill and pregnant mother, is guided by a faun through quests which lead her into another world. Through his guidance, as well as assistance from fairies and The Book of Crossroads, Ofelia begins to learn that she is a princess from long ago. After the death of her mother, she eventually escapes to join her mother and father who are the king and queen of the underworld.

A number of smaller elements characteristic of apocalyptic literature can be found in Pan's Labyrinth as well, such as the importance of the book, the emphasis on history arranged into epochs, the presence of signs.

Ithica's Rachel Wagner has a great post on SBL's site that is along these same lines of thought, but focusing on the apocalyptic elements found in video games.

Isaac M. Alderman
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  1. Nice, John. I wish I could have had teachers who did this! As to the Book of Rev itself, I heard Calvin stayed away from commenting on it because he concluded it was too difficult to figure out. Now people seem to be getting a better handle on it after spending years of studying apoc lit more generally first. I listened to Rev. in the car on the way to a Notre Dame football game from start to finish, and enjoyed it a lot, just listening to for its emotional power.

  2. Tom,

    You will have to direct your compliments to Isaac Alderman, who just came on board at Bible Junkies! He teaches at UST as well and will bring some new ideas (as well as new posts) to the site. If you want to see his profile, check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/biblejunkies or see his profile to the right of here on this page.


  3. I loved this film, Isaac, and thought the same as you do. Visually, this is a stunning film: the difference between the war-torn and ravaged corpreal realm and the supernatural world took my breath away. We get only a very quick glimpse of the Kingdom at the end, and the visual beauty of the scene (after countless minutes of drab and darkness) was amazing. What I loved about this film is that it wasn't of the 'Christian' genre (like Bella or Fireproof) so nothing hit you over the head with a Religious Hammer, but it is indeed a theological film with an eschatological purpose. I think it deserves a re-run at our house this weekend.

  4. Laura, I hope you enjoy the rerun. I just did the same the other day. Tom, thanks and I am glad you appreciated the post.