Monday, April 17, 2006

So then, are we the Neo-Neoclassicists?

I have often heard it said that Christian art is about 50 years behind [secular art]. The more I study art history and listen to the musings of Christian filmmakers, it seems that we are actually 250 years behind.

For those of you not familiar with Neoclassicism, it is a three-century-old movement, characterized not only by a reverence for rules and order, but an infatuation with the Greek tradition ("Goodness, Beauty, Truth?"). Neoclassicists were particularly fond of Aristotle, though their rules for Theatrical Art were far more rigid (Hmmm). The Neoclassicists valued taste and decorum over invention and believed the function of all drama was to teach moral lessons.

Some of their more odd rules stated that everything in a play must occur within a space of a couple hours (or else the audience could not suspend their disbelief), all violence must take place off stage, the ending must be calamitous, the moral lesson must be clear, and the language must be in Alexandrian verse. Though we may scoff at these ridiculous restrictions, their counterparts are alive and well in more contemporary and arbitrary rules.

Eventually, Romanticism came along, largely as a rebellious reaction, and put Neoclassicism out of fashion. Writers stopped writing about royals and started writing about rogues. Not kings, but convicts, whose adventures did not span a mere two hours, but three decades. However, the moral lessons did retain their clarity in the new movement. That rule, I'm convinced, is universal and inescapable.

Yet, I can't help but suspect that many of the moral decrees issued on how to make a "Christian" film are no more than personal convictions or tastes masquerading as Christian doctrine. Perhaps I’ll be vindicated when the Christian Neo-Neoromantic upstarts come along.

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