Sunday, 20 December 2015

Beauty and Truth

It is rare for me to read an editorial of the Tablet with enthusiasm (and I thank Edmund Adamus for pointing this out). But this editorial on Beauty pointing the way to God strikes me as very good.

My regular reader will recall my fumbling attempts to grope my way to some sort of understanding of the importance of aesthetics - and particularly the claim that one can make objective evaluations of the quality of art- which culminated here.

But the Tablet leader reminded me of something else, tangentially related, and that is the effect of holiness on artists. I am not really qualified to talk about the effect on visual artists of painting Madonnas etc, nor even the effect of musicians of composing Masses and sacred music. I am sure my enlightened, educated an esteemed readership will be able to contribute examples.

But I have been struck by the way in which writers, normally unsympathetic to the Church, have been moved to write very sympathetically and often with great insight, when they come to address holy themes - or holy people.

A few examples spring to mind. Anouilh and l'Alouette (The Lark) his play about St Joan of Arc; and Robert Bolt, with A Man for all Seasons. Even the Python team, who had intended to write a pastiche of the Life of Our Lord; when they read the Gospels, they realised that they did not want to mock Christ, so they invented Brian, a separate character caught up in the turbulent religious and political complexities of the time.

We (or at least, I) often think about the ennobling effect of art on the viewer or listener; but perhaps we (or at least, I) have not thought enough about the effect on the artist.


Charlesdawson said...

I knew that the Pythons had not intended The Life of Brian to mock the story of Our Lord, a point which at the time escaped the then Archbishop of Canterbury and Malcolm Muggeridge (I well remember watching a car-crash interview in which MM persistently referred to the Life of Brian as "this fifth-rate film" even after he was forced to admit he had never watched it). I did not realise they had actually started out with that intention.

There was a fashion in those years for British films which set out to demonstrate how gullible and greedy "ordinary people" are (as opposed by implication to the film's makers). The Magic Christian is another example.

Ben Trovato said...

Charles, my source for that (iirc - too busy to dig it out and check) was Wilmut's book, From Fringe to Flying Circus in which (again, from memory) he quotes Chapman (or was it Cleese?) as saying that.

And such is the intellectual rigour of most of my posts...