As humans we tend to make sense of things by searching for meaningful patterns. Librarians are especially guilty of this tendency and because of this I’m always checking my own potential for apophenia. It’s seeing your make and model car on the road more frequently because that is what you’re focused on. So when I see popular culture references on dying come up I understand it’s only because I’m looking for them and not really because they’re truly becoming popular. Of course this article (in the new-new age version of the old age Utne Reader) from What is Enlightenment magazine wants to have us believe that stories with a spiritual edge are more popular than ever,
Two new independent film festivals hit the scene last year, created specifically to honor the up-an-coming trend known as “spiritual cinema.” This independent spiritual film (or “spindie”), based on a play by a seventeenth-century French dramatist and starring Kirk Douglas, was selected as 2005 “best feature” at both events.
Ugh. “Spindies.” Sounds like spin. You know when the media creates its own clever catch word while “trendspotting” popular culture any reporting is going to take what is a normal cultural tendency and push it out of proportion. Still, the movie, Illusion, does look interesting. In fact the setting of a screening room reminds me of one of my other favorite movies, Afterlife. The idea that movies and memories are so closely linked isn’t just a trend though. It’s part of the mystique of the industry and why losing ourselves in visually told stories is so appealing at a fundamental level. There are a couple other films I’ve run across recently in the same category. One of them is Two Weeks. The trailer makes it seem more overtly sentimental ala Terms of Endearment than the review. The other is Eve Of Understanding which is more about the emotional fallout after a death than the actual dying. This film has a beautiful soundtrack with an interesting premise—what it means carrying out someone’s last wishes.
So forget about it being spiritual cinema. That’s just a catch phrase of some marketing wonk. They’re no more a trend than the human condition is a trend and these end of life stories do what all stories do, they connect us to one another.