It’s not often that I get a call from the local theater to be offered free tickets to view a movie they are playing. (This was actually the first time this has ever happened.) It was not unusual to talk to Kim at the Twin Cinema 12 in Twin Falls though. Twin Cinema has been willing to help with multiple things for me over the past 12 years. There was a season of time that Eastside actually rented space at the Orpheum in down town Twin Falls for several months while sorting out space needs for our weekly gathering. Then there were those Sherwood Baptist guys and their successful movies… Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous. Larry and Kim are always willing to help.
Kim called late last week and asked if I would be willing to come view this movie they have showing right now called Saratov Approach. Kim was quick to let me know that this was a movie about two Mormon missionaries who were kidnapped in 1998. Her request was simply to watch the movie, their treat.
Tonight, Renee and I walked into the Twin Cinema 12 on the corner of Kimberly road and Eastland just before the 5PM showing. I explained to the cashier that Kim left me two tickets to see Saratov Approach, she was eager to accommodate by pulling out the tickets Kim left.
Here are a few reflections on the movie.
The story itself (not addressing any of the spiritual conflicts between orthodox Christianity and Mormonism) was told with skill. The skilled cinematographers did their duty to capture my attention and hold it for the entirety of the movie, even with occasional poor acting by some of the secondary actors. I was emotionally moved by the plight of the kidnapped Americans. I felt for the young men and even related to some of the internal struggles of faith and hope. I was moved with compassion for their families, and even the kidnappers from time to time.
The movie did what I think the makers wanted to achieve; there was a likability and an endearment to the two Americans and their genuine care for people, even their kidnappers. I found myself from time to time relating in a strange way to the young men. I was moved to tears as I watched their parents struggle with hope, fear, and joy. This was a good reminder that there are risks to Americans who travel abroad.
I was in constant conflict with the spiritual content. Renee noted that the two Americans would quote from the bible or reference the New Testament as they spoke of spiritual matters and not the Book of Mormon. There was language of god and Jesus that was familiar; but in light of truth, it was uncomfortable. Mormon doctrine was revealed from time to time, but always in subtle, veiled ways. Especially in relationship to the various spiritual paths that men travel down and essentially leading to the same god. This was not a focal point of the movie, but I picked up on it from time to time. A few conversations between the kidnappers and the two Americans felt like an attempt by the director to bridge an emotional bond between the viewers and the kidnappers so that Mormonism appears to be Christian. This language is always complicated. Mormon doctrine is anything, but orthodox Christianity.
I think the movie accomplished telling the story. It was done with seriousness, laughter, fear, tension, shock, tears and relief. The story showed two men loyal to their belief, honorable to their families, and compassionate to their captors. The story, for the sake of a story, was good. I’m glad I went. I’m glad to know the story. I’m thankful to the Roper’s for their kind gift of the movie passes.
I was reminded of Albert Mohler’s recent comments in a lecture at BYU last month speaking as an orthodox evangelical Christian seminary president to a student body of Mormons… “I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.”