Friday, 3 August 2012

Chariots of Fire... Let the Athletics commence...

This a re-post from way back in January 2010 of my Drama selection for the Art and Christianity meme commenced by Jonathan Evens. With the start of the Athletics at London 2012 today and the re-release of an enhanced version of the film it just seemed the right thing to do ;-)
Artwork: Antony Gormley - 'Field for the British Isles'
Drama: Film 'Chariots of Fire' (1981)
Music: J S Bach - St Matthew Passion
Novel: Victoria Hislop - The Island
Poem: Wilfred Owen - The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
Drama: I have chosen the film Chariots of Fire - Pleased to say I saw it way before the Oscar nominations and other plaudits poured in, so I was an early 'adopter' of this great period piece set around the 1924 Olympics (so expect to see it on the box a few times over the next couple of years!).

There are many issues tackled in the film which revolves around the counterbalance of ambitious Englishman Harold Abrahams, who is Jewish, and Eric Liddell, an instinctive Scottish sprinter who, as a devout Christian, makes the wonderful statement 'I believe that God made me for a purpose (i.e. supporting his mission work) but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.'

The story doesn't end with the film, Eric went on to become a respected missionary in China and despite his athletic physique still died at a young age during incarceration in the Japanese Weihsien Internment (read concentration) Camp from a brain tumour. However, it was the film that nudged my interest to read more about him and Sally Magnusson's excellent book, The Flying Scotsman, was where I turned first in those pre-web days.

This film has so many resonances for me and refreshed me when the church simply didn't or couldn't. Athletics was the sport I was best at plus I had a relatively strict upbringing which meant we kept the Sabbath (Sunday!) holy. Creatively I love the daring combination of a period drama with the symphonic and quirky synthesiser music soundtrack composed by Vangelis on devices I know my way around. However, it is the example of Jesus that Eric clearly was that is so moving and challenging that gets to me everytime.

He did not get out of China when he could because it would desert friends and family. For example he was able to support his exhausted brother in a rural mission station. He was also fiercly anti-class and to demonstrate the importance of equality shared out some extra food with everyone that had been bought by oil company inmates who'd bribed their guards.

His example was remarkable and sacrificial, despite much personal hardship he never stopped putting others first and whilst passionate about his faith he led by example rather than proselytisation or seeking any glory for himself. This was highlighted in a recent revelation that when he was offered, as a former high profile athlete, an opportunity to take part in a prisoner exchange he gave his place to a pregnant woman. During his time in the camp he even took part, as referee, in a football match on a Sunday to prevent the teams from fighting because he was trusted to be completely impartial...

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nevell said...

Yes, inspiring, and the contrast between him and Abrahams is telling in the film. The powerfully evokative music is so much part of the fim, it's difficult to imagine it otherwise. But infact, I guess it all just happened in the "nornal" everyday way, like all of life...

Peter Banks said...

Yes, right down sewing Olympic badges onto their own blazers, travelling 3rd class, put up in digs or sleeping on floors! But did they grumble?!

Best, PB

sharpies said...

Yes, I've enjoyed reading this again, such an inspiring man and Christian. I saw the interesting documentary about the making of 'Chariots of Fire', that was on just before the Olympics, but, actually, have yet to see the film! It's a pleasure I have still to come, along with reading the book.

I have liked the fact that they have played the music at Olympic events, and wonder what that speaks to people, if anything. EL: another 'great' among many who have left a legacy of which they could never have dreamt?

Liz Hinds said...

I have been humming the theme music on and off for days.

Peter Banks said...

Yes, do check out the film Jennie!

Excellent Liz, as long as you can eradicate images of Mr Bean on synth?!