Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Matthew Chapman's THE LEDGE explores our faith -- and where we elect to place it; a Q&A with the talented writer/director

An intelligent, anti-religion tract brought to thrilling, pulsating life, THE LEDGE may not be a great film but it is a very, very good one -- cleverly imagined, sharply written and beautifully acted by all concerned. Written and directed by Matthew Chapman (who is, not coincidentally, the great, great grandson of Charles Darwin), the movie's plot pits the mind and spirit of a Christian fundamen-talist against those of an atheist. At stake, is, well, everything. Is this movie provocative? Yes indeed.

That the Christian is acting against every tenant known to have come from Christ Jesus' teachings only makes the movie more realistic and believable so far as what has happened (and continues to happen) in these United States over the past decade or so. Those beautiful Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount -- landmarks of ethical behavior -- have long been left behind by the most zealous, proselytizing Christians in their hypocritical search to deprive homosexuals of their rights, find and kill doctors who practice abortion, and see that women return to their role as "helpmeet" to their man. Our Christian here is played by Patrick Wilson, above, in yet another performance so much better than it needs to be that perhaps they should create an award just for this particular skill. Mr. Wilson has moments of such specificity and honesty that, as dreadful as is the character he plays, the actor never loses us by descending to cliché.

The role of the atheist is essayed by Charlie Hunnam, above, and this is certainly the best job I have seen this young actor deliver so far. He brings a fine intelligence and quick, easy wit to the role, as well as an underlying seriousness and gravity that allow the film to take the course it eventually does.

Beginning with a scene that must be every father's quiet nightmare, in which Terence Howard (above) delivers yet another fine performance as a police inspector who suddenly discovers some unsettling news, the movie opens up into the workplace -- a rather standard, mid-level hotel, where Hunnam's character manages the chambermaid staff -- and the home, an apartment building in which both pro- and antagonist reside, the latter of which has a wife (Liv Tyler, below) who proves the catalyst for all that happens.

Ms Tyler is also giving a performance that as good as anything she's done so far. Playing a woman with a past who is stalled between gratitude and genuine love, she brings not only a tender neediness but surprising seriousness and heft to this role, and she is finally instrumental in allowing us to believe how very far these men would go to possess her.

There's a minimal subplot about Hunnam's gay roommate, which might seem unduly schematic were it not for the very charming, easy performance by Christopher Gorham (above). Homosexuality is the but first of the "sins" our good Christian hopes to eradicate in his neighbors. If only he had stopped there.

The Ledge -- from IFC Films, opens this Friday in theaters (in New York City at the IFC Center, and in Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Sunset 5), and is concurrently available via VOD -- incorporates several genres, but mostly stays in the will-he-or-won't-he (and why?) thriller mode. Chapman handles the flashbacks (necessary, when the tale begins on that ledge) with ease and smarts so that we know what we need to, when we need to, and learn the rest as we move along.  If you've seen as many man-on-a ledge films as have I over the past 70 years, you'll appreciate one as different and pungent as this. It proves its point efficiently and effectively, while entertaining us and making us think. Can you ask much more from a movie?

***************

TrustMovies couldn't, but he could and did ask the filmmaker a few questions -- via phone, but we spent about an hour just gabbing. Matthew Chapman (shown below) and I share a belief in atheism, if that is not a contradiction in terms, and he is such an interesting, open and enthusiastic verbal presence that conversation was easy and plentiful. Unfortunately, the fellow was so much fun, and so interesting at times that TM simply stopped typing and just kept talking and listening. Consequently, he failed to transcribe everything and then had to try to reconstruct it. Below are the highlights, with TM in boldface and Mr. Chapman in standard type.

Boy – how wonderful it is to see a movie about faith – but faith placed in something besides god. Your movie gives us faith in love, in another person, in a kind of “social contract,” in doing the right thing, in, well, anything but religion and that "un-provable" deity!

You got it. And I am so glad.

Yes, and I think most other critics and audiences are going to understand this -- and how important it is -- too.

Let’s hope.

What? You think that some -- even many -- critics will let their own need for religion stand in the way of their appreciation?

I would not be surprised.

I hope not. I read in our press material that you are the great, great grandson of Charles Darwin, so of course we would expect you to have some interest in challenging the fundamentalist religious viewpoint. But how did you get involved in making a movie about this?

I had already written two books about this sort of thing. As a young man, I wasn’t really interested in Darwin because, in Europe, there is simply nothing controversial about him or about evolution. I thought that maybe the sort of odd and quirky piece of luck of being a descendent of this man might provide me with some interesting battles to fight and places to go.

So I wrote the book Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir about the Scopes Trial, and I took a road trip down to Dayton, Tennessee, to see the town where the original trial took place and to learn if it had evolved since 1925.

Had it?

It certainly had not. It seemed pretty much the same, maybe even a little less tolerant. I did meet some great people down there, however. I met a lot of people who were fundamentalists, and some of them were really terrific in certain ways.

Then I wrote a second book called 40 Days and 40 Nights, about a contemporary evolution-versus-creationism trial in Harrisburg, PA: Kitzmiller v. Dover Schooboard. There, fundamentalist parents had gotten control of the school board and instituted the teaching of creationism/intelligent design, as well as evolution. It got very ugly, and eleven parents sued to have the intelligent design taken out of the curriculum.

What confuses me – and I come from a very religious background as a (now-lapsed) Christian Scientist – is how welcoming and kind Christ Jesus was in literally everything he said and did (except maybe whipping the money-lenders out of the temple, which is something we could use a lot more of just now). And yet the Christian fundamentalists, in their hatred and anger, seem completely unaware that they are going directly against Jesus’ wishes and directions.

I believe these people wear a Jesus costume -- but inside they are Moses.

Oh, boy -- that was well said. Is that original?!

Yes, and it just came to me now, talking to you

Did you cast the movie yourself? Fine choices! Charlie Hunnam was particularly good: he -- and you and your writing -- really capture the mind and heart of an intelligent atheist.

Yes, and you know, we only had a single day to rehearse.

One day? Boy, in legitimate theater you’d have a lot more than that!

I’m sure. I was indeed involved in the casting, and this was exactly the cast I wanted, and I think all of the actors are so good, so exceptional. I think that Liv Tyler and Charlie Hunnam are as good as they have ever been, and of course, Patrick Wilson and Terence Howard are always so good.

Wilson is so effortlessly good at being cold, and yet in other roles – like the current Insidious – he’s full of innate charm. Tyler, under-used and often given a bad rap, really proves herself here. And Hunnam is just about perfect as a non-believer who’s whip-smart and won’t put up with any bullshit. And it is his character most of all that nails your thesis, I think. The fact that genuine faith need not be at the service of god or religion.

You know, I went to show this film at a meeting of more than 1,000 atheists in Des Moines, Iowa, and around 120 of them were either military or ex-military. I met many of them, talked and hung out with them, even got drunk with them. Clearly, these were people who would have sacrificed their lives for their comrades in war. So it’s clear that people do sacrifice their lives out of and for simple human decency, without any promise of an afterlife.

You may not know the answer to this, but do you think that your actors’ interest in this film came somewhat because of its (and maybe their own) take on religion and fundamentalism?

 
I didn’t probe into that question with them, except a bit with Charlie, because of the particular role he had. There are parts of actors that which you honor better, if you let them keep a few things to themselves. You get more out of them that way.

That’s true, I think. I used to act. Way back.

Really?

Yeah, but I couldn’t mange it for long. It’s such a difficult struggle. You have to be so strong to take that near-constant rejection.

My daughter now wants to be an actress. And I worry about this.

I think if parents -- and I suspect you have already done this -- provide their kids with the tools to form their own good self-image while growing up, then whatever career the kids decide to tackle, they’ll have a better chance of success.

Well, one thing I did tell my daughter is, Just keep your sense of humor. That is so important. Really, that’s probably why England survived the Blitz and WWII. Hitler had no sense of humor, but Churchill certainly did. If you have as sense of humor, this can really help take the pressure off.

Can we talk about Heart of Midnight?

(Chapman laughs) 
{Editor’s note: This was one of Chapman’s earlier films.}

Sure. Actually, that’s why I stopped directing. We had a disagreement on what the movie should be. I wanted it to be an art movie, the producer wanted a horror movie. And so the finished film was constantly fighting against itself. After that, I thought, I don’t want to get rushed into another movie where I don’t care about the ideas or don’t understand them.

It's funny, but I remember thinking, when I saw it when it first came out, that this was a movie that didn't know what it wanted to be.  Then came Consenting Adults

Another movie with problems.

The Color of Night, which for all its bad press, was still kind of fun in a campy way. And then What’s the Worst that Could Happen? What was that last film like to work on?

That was one of the best scripts I ever wrote. Donald Westlake, from whose novel I adapted the screenplay, wrote me, telling me that this was “the best adaptation of any of book of mine, ever” – which I am really proud of! But you do this work and think you’ve written a good script, and then…. the director comes aboard. So, after about 20 years of people misdirecting your work, you finally think, “Well, I‘d like to mis-direct my own work.”

Runaway Jury, though – now that was another good script --and a good movie!

Yes, but because The Insider has just come out and was about the prosecution of the tobacco industry, the producers wanted me to find another subject in place of tobacco, since they had bought the right to the Grisham book. So I turned the subject to the wrongdoing of a gun manufacturer. I did a lot or research into issue of guns their control and distribution. For instance, when you pull the magazine out of certain guns, often that gun is left with a bullet in its chamber.

What? Really?

Yes. So people pick up the gun and think that because there is no magazine in it, it’s empty. But, still, there’s a bullet in the gun. Gun companies could get around this by doing all kinds of things, but they just don’t bother. And that’s disgusting.

Yep. I’d like to think that Runaway Jury at least got viewers thinking about guns and gun control. Before I forget, are Hussy and Stranger’s Kiss (these are two of Chapman’s earliest films) available on DVD or streaming?

You know, I don’t really know. And also, the things you did way back then are from such a different time that it’s like a different person wrote them.

Yes: I used to write plays, and when I look back at them 30 years later, it’s like they belong to someone else.

While you might change some things and make it better, you can’t really capture the spirit that was you at that time. I would love to write for the theater. The famous theater director Peter Hall has a son Edward Hall, who runs The Hampstead Theater and he wants me to turn The Ledge into a theater piece. Which I hope to do.

I can see that happening fairly easily, for there is already so much good dialog there. If somebody had told me that The Ledge was already based on a play, I’d have said, “Of course.”

Speaking of Darwin, did you see the movie Creation, and what did you think? I thought it could have been better but even so, there were some marvelous things in it.

I was hoping they would ask me to write Creation. But they didn’t. But I thought the movie had some wonderful stuff in it, too. You know, Darwin was such a scientist – and interested in so many different things. He wrote this enormous book about orchids and earthworms; he really had a scientist’s mind.

Were you raised in England?

Yes, in Cambridge.

I notice during the end credits that you dedicated your movie to two names.

Yes -- to two men Dick Chapman (my uncle) and Ben Duncan, who was his partner and is now his husband. They were the first couple to marry in Cambridge, England, and are somewhat, you might say, gay icons. I love them. They were the only functional couple in my entire childhood. I love and revere them because they were such a good example to me. They were also a huge inspiration to the film -- because homophobia is one of the most awful and visible aspects of religion in general and of Christians, Muslims and Jews in particular. But I don’t think I know a single religion that isn’t homophobic. When I was growing up, these two men who lived next door to me. If they had been caught, simply as two practicing homosexuals, they would have faced up to 30 years in prison during the 1950s and 60s – that was the maximum sentence in Britain. From the age of eight or nine, I thought this law was outrageous and very peculiar.

Where does this hatred come from?

One does not have far to look. The Church of England was always very homophobic.

Still is, pretty much.  Now, your movie is opening simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles, right?

Yes, but whether it opens nationwide depends on how it does in the first couple of weeks. So whether it makes it into the smaller town or even mid-size towns in American – which is where it really needs to be seen -- depends on how well it does in those first couple of weeks.

Because it’s from IFC, it’ll still be available via VOD all over the country.

Yes, but to be really empowering and to provoke discussion, it needs to open in a local theater where the local critic will then cover it.

Right – although more and more often now, you see VOD debuts and straight to DVD covered by the media, especially the blogs. 

But we need to get the major critics to do this, too.

Yes -- so we will do what we can.  Thanks so much for your time, Matthew, and I wish you the very best for your really special and provocative film.

Thank you.

81 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just watched it,thought about my faith,related to both sides and shed a single tear at the end.
first class acting by all.

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Anon. Glad you could catch this one -- which was one of the most important films of last year (though most critics seemed to disagree with my "take" on it). I just wish more people could see this unusual (and considering our too-locked-into-religion country) very daring movie.

David G. Hendrickson said...

I watched the movie last night and thouroughly enjoyed it. I looked at the listing on DirecTV and it only had 1 star (out of 5). I was shocked. This movie should have received 4 stars; I believe the critics let their own prejudices blind their ability to see good storytelling, acting, plot, and climax combine to a real edge-of-your seat cliff hanger that also makes you think.

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks for your comment, David, and yes, I sure agree. In chatting with my small circle of critic friends, I found that most of them could not get around the movie's refusal to "believe in god." (At least that's what I think was going on. People -- including me, I'm afraid -- don't like admitting to their prejudices. Particularly when they feel that the prejudice in question is actually the truth of the matter and so is simply above disagreement.

But only a single star from Direct TV? Go soak your head, whoever is the critic on whom this company is relying!

Lucy said...

Jan. 8 2012

I just watched your movie on tv and I want to thank you for making me feel and think in ways other movies haven't in a long time. My sister and her partner have been married for over 3 years now and I cannot think of them but as a unit. The homosexuality spin was just a side thought for me as religion and faith in what's real played a bigger part in my mind. The characters must be commended on bringing so much realism to the role. Bravo! I look forward to seeing your talent light up the screen in the future!

Lucy

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks Lucy. I'm so glad you found this movie special, though you comments really are directed to its writer/director, Matthew Chapman, rather than to me -- just a blogger who posted on the film. So I hope Mr. Chapman will check in here to read what you have to say -- which I'm sure he will appreciate.

Anonymous said...

I truly enjoyed this movie! I will freely admit that following a typically stressful day of work, I turned it on fully intending to play with my iPad and use the TV strictly for background.
I watched the entire movie and never touched the iPad! I even forgot Charlie and Patrick were so....easy to watch.
Seriously, loved the stories.
Very good and thank you for your work!

Dalia Tharaldsen said...

I just saw the movie and it made me have so many feelings. ( I totally relate to it, cause I have an uncle that's catholic fanatic. Is hard to deal with him.) The movie is So realistic. And definitely showed how many people are. It definitely makes u think.

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Dalia. I think all of us who have religious (of any kind) fanatics in our family will be able to relate. I am so glad you were able to see this film.

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Anon (three comments above: I seem to have answered these slightly out of order). And yes, Patrick and Charlie are indeed easy on the eyes. And so is Christopher Gorham, who plays Charlie's gay roommate. You're right, too, that the story is simply so riveting that even those good-looking guys (along with Liv Tyler, looking very hot) don't detract from it in the least. I hope a lot of other people like you start to watch this film expecting to use it as background noise, but then grow so wrapped up in it that everything else takes a back seat.

Chris Sommer said...

Your movie was a great inspiration to a religious (former bigot of many things, self-righteous judge thought placed on this Earth to thin-out the weedy-snags in life..etc). I will carry this message. One Question - wasn't the main character though positively influenced (if not a closet religious guy) by some religious-truths, or where they innately given? chris sommer, Columbia, SC I'd love to start a dialogue with you to learn the simple truths, I don't know the all, and probably never will but I'm gathering them up and asking along the way, as i Trudge this Happy Road of Life..?

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Chris, though your comments are really, I think, directed more at Matthew Chapman, the filmmaker himself, than to me -- who was only commenting on his movie. But to answer one of them (not for Chapman, as this is just my opinion): Sure, the main character might have been influence via some religious concepts. A true and worthwhile concept can come from anywhere -- even from religion. After all, Jesus had a lot of good things to teach us -- particularly via his Sermon on the Mount. Trouble is, organized religions of all sorts have ignored or trashed so much of what he and other "prophets" had to say that they have made a travesty out of the original preachings.

Plus, I think the movie is asking us, and very genuinely, how can we place our faith in a god whom none of can possibly know or understand, let alone even be sure about the existence of? What kind of way is that to live one's one-and-only life?

Anonymous said...

The movie was really good. At first I thought it was jus gona b a love story but when gavin jumped it gave me chills.

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks for the comment, Anon. I hope his jumping also made you think about the fact that he was doing it to save the life of the woman he loved. He put his faith in that -- and acted on it.

Jim from Derry said...

I really enjoyed "The Ledge" and as you have said the actors were all superb and brought to life characters that were totally real and believable. This sensitive story was well scripted and the end was both sad and uplifting.
The setting was a bit unusual but brought the story more into focus as did the music score and the excellent camera work.
I don't think any of the actors have performed so well before and I have admired and been a fan of most of them for some time. Charlie Hunnam, (Sons of Anarchy), has never been better; Terrence Howard, (Law and Order), was excellent and took all the acting honours just ahead of the beautiful Liv Tyler; Patrick Wilson, (A Gifted Man), and Christopher Gotham, (Covert Affairs), were great supporting actors.
I am going to say my prayers tonight,the first time in a long time, for having the privilege of watching such a moving film.

James van Maanen, said...

Hey, Jim from Derry (that's Ireland, right? Though there are probably plenty of other Derries around, but maybe not that famous).... Anyway, thanks for the comment. I'm glad to know The Ledge is perhaps now reaching audiences internationally. I loved your comment's final paragraph, but I have to admit maybe the film's writer/director Matthew Chapman was not hoping to bring you back to the "prayer" fold. But movie-making -- as well as moving one's audience -- can have both intended and unintended consequences. Whatever: you sound like an intelligent guy, just struggling with it all, the way the rest of us are doing, too. Good luck!

Paul Fallon said...

Just watched the movie. Moments of tears, moments of truth, monomts of clarity between the difference between real religion and real love. What is the meaning of life when your at the end of it? The love you have for those you ,ay be leaving behind, the love you received from them in return. Most people don't speak of god, or religion, they discuss love. The people they should have loved unconditionally, the people they should have let someone return the same sentiments, people they let go and never saw again, children that were abandoned, regrets of not loving enough. How do I know this? A friend is a pastor at a church not of my faith and we discussed this one day.i was inspired by his answers. He is right.i would gladly die for my wife, daughter, son, or the daughter I gave up years ago. Without hesitation. I don't believe I will go to hell if I had to do that for my family as I love them more than life itself, hence my willingness to commit an act so devout in trust at its essence. When Gavin jumps it only re establishes my belief that god is love,but we express that through loving others unconditionally.that is how we talk to and about God, through loving each other.

James van Maanen, said...

Wow, Paul -- what a "love"ly comment you've gifted us with! Really, this is so beautifully written and deeply felt that I hope anybody who sees the movie and reads this post will also discover your comment. You express the heart of the film about as well as anybody that I've read so far. Including my own post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just watched it! The casting was perfect and the acting superb. The message was right on! I hope it makes people think about what is important in life and realize the evil religions can cause.

James van Maanen, said...

I hope so, too, Anon. Thanks for commenting.

Unknown said...

There are two things that a good movie and a good dinner share.
They both taste as good on the morning after.
A good movie will get you thinking for days after.
Saw the ledge at least 3 times on IFC and sat tv. EAch time it moves me.the script hits a genuine note.That the jumper can in the moment of his greatest pain can help to heal the policeman.
That each of us, even in our greatest pain, can help another.
THe bond between soldiers dying for a cause, not of their making. Dying to protect their fellow soldier. I know of no other love that trancends this act.
A love of such purity and selflessness.
I certainly don't find it in the church.
A great thought provoking movie, Great script and greatacting

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks for the comment, Unknown (which is a nice change from Anonymous)! I agree with all you've said, but regarding those soldiers "dying for a cause not of their making," I just hope that cause is a just one. God (pardon the expression) knows, there have been enough UNjust ones over the centuries, for which soldiers have died bravely and uselessly.

Deletive said...

Just watched your movie and it was superb! I don't consider myself a "movie person", but this movie really moved me. Love the stories and their complexities. Very thoughtful piece! Totally do not understand the 1 star, 10x better than expected. Emotions I haven't felt like that during a movie in forever. Good stuff!

James van Maanen, said...

Another precinct hear from! Thanks, Deletive -- all I can figure out about why some people hate this movie is that they have such strong pro-religion feelings that they cannot even BEGIN to entertain the idea that all this might be hogwash. And thus the movie itself, which is quite well done, is summarily axed. Anyway, glad you got to see it and appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I understand the movie needed a bad guy, but a part of me was hoping for an intelligent presentation of theology/philosophy from both sides of the coin. I was disappointed that only one side was given a fair shake. On its own it stands as a critique of extremist views, but most extremest positions are poor to begin with.

That said, I enjoyed the movie and agree that the performances were outstanding. And even with my faith I'm not sure I would have had the strength of conviction the protagionist displays.

Anonymous said...

If I may respond to why I believe in a God that can't be proven.

Sentience or no, I think everyone believes in something that has always existed and will always exist, even if just a random cycling of matter and energy. The only other options concievable are 1) only void truly exists or 2) only you exist and everything is your imagination.

If we say God is whatever actually has always been and will always be (even if we say that void is the thing which exists), than something IS God.

A scientist measures, guesses, tests by measuring, and evaluates the accuracy of his guess. A scientist does this measuring with "units" which are only meaningful because we all agree they are. Science doesn't honestly prove anything, we all just agree it does.

A philosopher constructs a dogma based on reason and logic. The western world accepts these as valid forms of designing thought, but we have no proof that logic is any more valid than anything else (like passion for example). To live as a philosopher is harder than to live as a scientist, because a philosopher must stick to his dogma unless it can be countered at which point he must change his dogma regardless of what choice may have actually made him happy.

A pious man has the hardest path of all. He must follow the dogma of another whether he agrees with it or not and regardless of how it makes him feel.

Is harder better? Who's to say?

I say all this because God cannot be proven EVER because God can not be measured (by a scientist). God is all that truly exists. As such a piece of existence could never be large enough to measure the whole.

God can not be reasoned or argued (by a philosopher) because his mind and his words (and the limits of communication) are at most a piece of the whole. Again, it's just not big enough to include everything that is. If it was big enough, it would BE God.

God can not be proven by a pious man either, because a pious man accepts a lack of proof. The pious man relies on faith, and it is his faith which allows him to "know" his God.

In short, God can not be proven (to do so would mean you were God, or it would disprove God); however, God (aka whatever truly exists) does indeed exist.

WHO/WHAT is/are God? <---- THAT is the question each of us must answer. True atheism is impossible, unless nothing exists.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks Anon--
I hadn't thought of this movie from your viewpoint, but I must say it is a valid one. And yet, without the fundamentalist adversary, the movie would have been quite something other than it is. Also, I think that filmmaker Chapman does not have it in for religion per se -- if you want to believe, fine: believe -- but for the fundamentalist approach to religion, which insists that it and only it is the "right way."

I doubt I'd have the strength exhibited by our "hero" either. But it's something to work toward, for sure!

James van Maanen said...

And to the other recent (and longer) Anonymous post (two comments above): Well, by your definition, then anything and everything is God. And since something exists, certainly, that means God exists. This kind of philosophy sure makes worship easy, I guess. But it ain't good enough for me.

I suppose part of the problem here is the word God -- which brings to mind something different for just about anybody you ask to define that word.

And you say that the pious path is the hardest of all because the pious person must follow the dogma of another whether he agrees with it or not. That certainly is not what being pious means to me. You can be pious and follow your own dogma -- unless you are saying that only organized religions offer a dogma worthwhile. Please, don't tell me you are feeding us that particular hooey?!

What The Ledge is saying, among other things, is that we must grow up and learn to think and reason for ourselves. And for that, the movie deserves our respect.

Anonymous said...

I am actually both of the previous anons (short and long). I think the film should be respected because it shows the power of love, regardless of its source.

You replied something to the effect that "...then God is everything...". To which I would reply, only if you believe everything actually exists.

Personally as a Christian, I believe creation (all the stuff we think is real) is highly organized nothing. God spoke, and the nothing became something temporarily.

And true theology can sprout from an individual, so as far as definitions are concerned a pious person does not need organized religion. In fact our protagonist is arguably pious in his final act, but I would prefer to view him as a philosopher. His fate is much like that of Socrates.

It would not have been in agreement with the agenda of the film (although given that the agenda in this case is in the minority and probably needs to be voiced independently to be heard) but I would have liked the detective to better represent the Christian position as a counter to the extremist. Perhaps even taking the place of the jumper, or at least offering to. But like you said. That would be a totally different movie.

The bad guy's position is not a Christian one, but maybe the movie isn't saying it is. Maybe the movie only has issue with the extremist position. And I would agree with those complaints. Any "Christian" dismissal of this film probably comes from an extremist or from someone who feels their own theology is being labeled as identical to that of the movie. If anything the movie arguably edifies the Christian position as well when the detective returns home (although probably not given the denial of the pre meal prayer).

Lastly, since it was heavy subtext for the movie I would just like to add the following regarding sexuality. Do people do things that are not the will of the Christian God? Certainly. First among these sins is judging others. Only God may judge. Luckily for us all, God is Love. The most pious Christian ever to walk the Earth will go to Hell if they don't have love. Without love, it's all pointless.

So back to my first point in this reply, this movie shows the power of love (and does so very well I might add) and for that I respect it greatly. Although I'm not sure the extremist or the unthinking would listen long enough to get the message.

Lastly I thank you for posting my opinions, for not being argumentative with them, and for hosting this forum where such delicate subjects can be discussed honestly.

James van Maanen said...

Wow-- the same Anonymous for both comments. I would not have guessed that, as both seemed quite different. Your latest, and longer, comment is very interesting. I absolutely agree that the position of "bad guy" (as you put it) in this film is not a Christian one. Unfortunately it is all too representative of what passes for "Christian" in these United States today. You idea, too, that a real Christian might have offered to take the jumper's place is a wonderful one.

As to posting your opinions and thoughts, I am happy to do this. And even happier that this film has generated so many comments -- the most of any movie that I have covered so far.

I can help but feel that the filmmaker would be pleased by this, too. I hope he has had time to read your thoughts and those of the others who have posted.

Anonymous said...

The movie was very well done..very believable...i do think it was strongly done on the directors perspective..and 1 sided..and did pick a very dimented christian to display...,,,good lesson for us christians,,

alex said...

I think all people want to be accepted...and as christians we tend to forget how accepted we were by christ,,,,and act as hypocryts...i am still learning of christ on this,,,christ fully accepts all..and i learned another angle of how people feel from this movie..and all the gay bashing that has gone on in a self righteous world,,w/ alot of hate out there...we jus want acceptence and to feel wanted and part of...alot of us so called christian hav done a lowsy job at showing that acceptence and fo this i am sorry..and say this is not a representation to christ

alex said...

James ...maybe ...we as a people are all mixed up...but thats not God's fault,,,and that doesnt put him out of existence....just our views of God scued....maybe...jus the fact that so many in history that claimed to have a relationship to him(no matter how bad the interpretation)is evidence enough that God is relevant,,,not to mention ...all the nature in this world,,,the universe,,and birth ,,and the many facets of the human body and all life as we know it.....but jus the fact that most religions have their ideas...of God or gods.....gotta tell us something,,,that God is relevant,,we may be just off ourselves,,,,what do you think..

James van Maanen said...

You're right, New Anon, that the director did pick a demented Christian to portray -- but it is one who reflects quite well what many so-called Christians in this country truly believe. I don't see how moviegoers could fail to see that. It is this kind of Christian who we need to be aware of and not allow to take us over.

If the director had picked the kinder, loving type of Christian, I wonder what sort of movie might have been the result?

James van Maanen said...

Alex--
Thanks for your comments. I understand what you are saying about how so many people believe in god, all around the world, and this must count for something, and so he/she/it must exist. Maybe. But if we take just a tiny look at the vast universe, doesn't the idea hit you that whatever power created this must be so far above anything we mere mortals could possibly understand and appreciate that we're simply unable to begin to get our heads around this concept.

There are so many problems in our world that need to be addressed and helped -- from global warming to the behavior of crazy dictators who enslave and murder their own people -- that to spend time "worshiping" at the altar of something we will never penetrate nor understand strikes me as lunacy. And maybe a wonderful excuse for NOT taking care of the very problems that we actually might be able to do something about.

Arguing about the existence of god seems to me a waste of valuable time -- time that would appear to be running out.

Jessie said...

Just got done watching The Ledge. To be honest I hadn't heard much about it but wanted to see it because I am a HUGE Hunnam fan! I'm glad I did, a lot of my own personal beliefs came through on this movie, and I was glad someone was able to capture my voice and beliefs and portray them accurately! I'm still in the atheist closet to most people in my life, this movie really made me want to vocalize it a little more, something I believe may be as hard as coming out of the gay closet as well!
Thank you for your voice!

James van Maanen said...

And thank you, Jessie, for taking the time to comment. Are you located in the America's South, perhaps? (Or in Utah...?) It is hard for us Northeasterners, I think, to understand how difficult coming out as an atheist can be, so thank you for sharing your thoughts. And good luck with doing it, eventually. Be careful. And keep us posted.

Cengiz said...

First of all, I thought it is a real story then I found this page, I'm Muslim and I believe that any kind of fanaticism make people blind. In other way, I questioned myself about my religion but I'm still glad to be Muslim because after reading Quran I see that science does not contradict with Islam. Our prophet, Hz.Mohammed(s.a.v) said that "Seek knowledge even though it be in China." and I'm pretty sure that if you have chance to read Quran, you will find it peaceful.
P.s: I believe the first holly bible that comes to Jesus but then It has changed so no more God's words in it that's why I offer you to read last holly book Quran you don't have to change your mind but only read you won't lose anything. If you open it you will see the first verse of Quran start with "Read", please don't judge religion with the bad people's behaviours.
Thanks for reading

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for your comment, Cengiz. I agree that fanaticism (or for that matter, fundamentalism) makes people blind. I also agree that The Bible has been changed a lot over the millennia, though whether Jesus had much to do with it, I doubt, since he was long gone when it first appeared.

I actually have read the Koran (as we Westerners refer to it) and while I found some of it worthwhile (primary books of all religious faiths have a certain morality about them -- precepts that seem intelligent to live by -- don't you think?), still, I couldn't take it whole hog (whoops: poor choice of words -- let's say "in its entirety") on blind faith, anymore than I can accept the Christian Bible or the teaching of the Jews. People and societies must grow and change, but conforming to anyone's original holy book does not help that growth and change. And since I don't believe in any God, per se, I certainly can't believe in any "word of God," either.

But thanks you for comment, and for watching that excellent movie and posting about it. You may be the first Muslim we've heard from (regarding this movie, at least) and I am very glad to have you in our mix!

Anonymous said...

The movie is great...but i think that the "intelegent atheist" (comone the guy he looks like a "dude" :D) would not jump ...than again maybe because i found the whole situation in the movie a bit absurd... ..why i think is dis movie good for ppl to watch its because of some nice sexy scenes with Ms Taylor in it (she's a beast)...hahah just kiding...not. I dont like the word Atheist and Beliver, in real life that dosent exsist...alot of ppl say they belive in God alot of say the don't... but all of us dont really know... i have a solution u see all of dis fuzz about "how wee are here and what are wee doing here" dosent realy mather there is so much energy and time invested at solving that question and its impossible to answer it during dis life time! But honestly we want to belive there is a God and we want to belive there is not, so we can continue living our lifes with some strong stands in our minds and make it easyer to express our selfs with others. Yes...the question popps up in our minds over and over again and in Society and in Media, insted we sould try not to think about it,(Religion is a addiction)? Its similar with quiting smokeing u just need to do somthing else ore think about somthhing else so u dont light up a cigaret. With time the question and the need will go awey, but only with time long long time...i think it is same with religion. While im writing dis i light up my cigaret and laugh about my wasted time trying to convince you the "Reader" in my belifs that im trying to prevent.
Confused well sure i am so dis is at some point sharing my confussion, and i think there is alot of u there also like me...
I started with a movie then it went somwhere else oh well wtf wasted some more time that i tought with my early coffe now i go and play some games on my comp and waste some more time...i think it says much about what a persone i am and thanks good for anonyimus muhahaha...a

James van Maanen said...

Whew -- well, thanks for this, Anon. Quite a read. For me your most interesting point is that, with time, the question and the need will go away. Here's hoping!

Anonymous said...

I just saw the film... Actually, I was inside the film... Thank you

James van Maanen said...

Thanks, Anon, for that, uh, rather cryptic comment. I wonder: What's it like to be "inside" a movie? Especially one that is coming from such an irreligious place? Interesting...

Anonymous said...

You will get your punishment for writing this script when we all will be judged by God end the end. Know that you atheist.God might forgive you but I wont. I hope I see your punk ass on that day! Signed, one of Gods future warriors (by the way although I have nothing against the Gay lifestyle personelly) I am against ANY one who promotes Godlly people as crazy fanatics so thats why my harsh comment

Greg Dagey said...

Well put together movie if you dont belive in God, but I do and am sorry its impact will destine people to become atheist like you and have no reprecushions on what they do with the rest of their short life on this planet, your a very bad person for doing this to people and I know in my heart you will be punished for it when you die

James van Maanen said...

Sorry, Greg --
I doubt that punishment'll happen, despite your belief. I also doubt I will draw that many away from religion, though I'd be happy and proud to have done so. Try really thinking for yourself for a change and not relying on imaginary friends. But, no that would just be TOO scary, right. And one more thing: You do realize, I hope, that one can be a predominantly good and caring person without having god in the picture.

James van Maanen said...

To the most recent Anonymous who commented above: First of all, did you imagine that I wrote the script for this movie? No. (I'd have been proud to have done so, but that was the filmmaker Matthew Chapman -- who is not gay, by the way. So far as I know, at least.)

And rest easy, because I need neither yours nor god's forgiveness. As to your comment that you are "against anyone who promotes godly people as crazy fanatics," well what would you call those guys responsible for 9/11? They were certainly godly people, and they were also crazy fanatics. And don't come back with the comment that they didn't believe in the RIGHT god. After all, there's only one deity, so far as most religious people are concerned.

The problem is that when you imagine that you have god on your side, then you can get away with just about anything. (Like beating up my punk ass on judgment day.)

Start opening up to reason and use your brain, Anonymous -- if your faith hasn't stunted it beyond repair.

Susan said...

Thank you. Your film is so honest and so thought provoking. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.......it was a gift. Susan

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for commenting, Susan. I hope that the filmmaker, Matthew Chapman, happens to see your heartfelt response, as I'm sure it would please him enormously.

Sammy Caras Zayante said...

Watched it last night, and enjoyed it, but I'm troubled by the depiction of Gavin. He is adulterous, steals from his employer, and has a sexual affair with a subordinate employee - going so far as to tell her she'll be rewarded with a preferable assignment if she shares lunch with him. The acting was top-notch, and I'm perplexed by the basement-ratings this movie is getting, but wish that Gavin wasn't so contemptible.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for commenting, Sammy, but I sure don't remember Gavin being contemptible. Are you maybe misinterpreting what he does? I'll have to watch the film again (it's been a couple of years) to figure out what you mean here. Stealing from his employer? I don't remember that. Adulterous and having sex with an employee -- but this all happens once the very solid and important relationship is established between Gavin and Shana. In any case, is she not as at fault as he -- if you are going to parcel out blame.

Those basement ratings, I'm certain, are coming from the fact that the film is anti-religious. This is still the world's greatest bug-a-boo. You can be anti just about anything or anyone with impunity. But, oh, my god -- not God!

Anonymous said...

Oh, how great this film is! It stands first in my must-see-films list. I give 2 thumbs up always!

James van Maanen said...

Well, thanks, Anonymous -- that's quite a recommendation!

JohnDocLove said...

Great movie. A comment on the Comment of Sammy Caras Zayante who said that he is disappointed with the depiction of Galvin who "has a sexual affair with a subordinate employee - going so far as to tell her she'll be rewarded with a preferable assignment if she shares lunch with him". IT WAS A JOKE Sammy. He offered to promote her to a position as a housekeeper which is what she was and was not even what she wanted to be which was a delivery person for room service. Sammy's other disappointment about "the depiction of Gavin" were the very things that made the story. Most importantly without the adultery of both Galvin and Shana THERE WOULD BE NO STORY. If you do not want stories of people who do "bad things" limit your reading to bible stories. Oh, I forgot the bible is filled with stories of people who do "bad things"

James van Maanen said...

Whoa -- you TELL 'em, JohnDocLove!

Good for you. This is a retort that our Sammy needs to hear -- and deal with. So thank you so much for taking the time to post this smart response.

Dave V said...

Hi,
Just watched the film, and felt it was very compelling. I too have family which are fundamentalist that driven by blind faith in my opinion. Many people hide their prejudices and hatreds under the cloak of faith.
I do find however, that in the same way Christian faith films always portrays the Christian as being more reasonable and compassionate; this film, did the same in reverse... even having atheist (Charlie Hunnam) go as far as to pray with a woman. I think it would wonderful to have a film which could create debate, portraying all points of view or beliefs; faith, in equal light. Though a very good film, I believe this also fell short in that respect. Patrick Wilson... if prosecuted in real life probably would have been found clinically insane, which most Christians are not.

James van Maanen said...

Thoughtful, interesting points, Dave. Thank you for sharing 'em. Movies do tend to go for the outer edges of human behavior, as it's always more exciting that way. If this film were simply dealing with Christian thought and behavior, rather than the fundamentalist view, I'd agree with you more. But since fundamentalists generally possess outer-edge, all or nothing viewpoints, this story seems pretty appropriate. Though most Christians, as you say, are not insane, the talley of fundamentalists who approach this state is a lot higher.

I, too, would love to see a movie deal with both sides to the question. Trouble is, one side would stick to facts as they can be ascertained, the other would take refuge in un-provable "faith." Which, to my mind, comes down to "no contest."

Fotini from Greece said...

I saw the film yesterday on DVD. I liked it a lot, the cast, the performances, the director's perspective on religious debates, the (un)/happy ending. I always believed that 1) God exists, and 2) God exists only within each one of us. So it's more efficient to look inwards when casting blame, or placing hopes for that matter. We are the source of our possibilities, and by choice we can turn the tables either way, just like the protagonist did at the end. Good film, great message!

James van Maanen said...

Hi, Fotini--
What an interesting and unusual "take" on this movie-- quite different from anyone else's posted here. I hope your thoughts on the film will persuade others to watch it and think about it. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

Edith M. Rios. said...

Edith M. Rios. New York. No puedo decir que es solo una excelente pelicula. Por que el que tenga la suerte de disfrutarla sea creyente o ateo hace refleccionar sobre nosotros y nuestras formas de ver , no solo la vida . Se representa las culpas y pecados que se pueden cruzar en el camino, que se puede seguir adelante. El dialogo de fe que tienen los protagonistas , sus diferentes convicciones, se muestra el adulterio ,la homofovia, la culpa. Para mi es una pelicula Humamna no de lo que ya estamos cansados de ver. Esta es una excelente pelicula ,y compartire con todos tanto familia y amigos. Felicito al escritor, Director , Actores , realmente un trabajo como muy poco vemos hoy en dia. Saluda atentamente a Usted. July 14,2013 at 11:59 pm.

James van Maanen said...

Dear Edith--
Thank you so much taking the time to post your comments. I have taken the liberty of having them translated by my upstairs neighbor (and everyone's favorite Spanish teacher), Davida Weber. So here they are for all my non-Spanish-speaking readers:

From Edith M. Rios, New York: I can't tell you that it's only an excellent film. Because whoever has the luck to enjoy it, be he or she a believer or an atheist, is made to think about ourselves, our way of seeing, and about life. We see the things we are guilty of and the sins that we may commit on the road of life and yet you can forge ahead. The dialog expresES the faith of the protagonists,and their different convictions as well as their adulteries, their homophobia, their blame. For me, this is a humanistic film, one which we never tire of seeing. This is an excellent film and I will share it with my family and friends. I congratulate the author, the director and the actors. We see very few works such is this these days. And I send you my greetings.

Anonymous said...

If someone is grounded in their beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs are, a movie like this can only help a person explore what is at the root of their beliefs. I really liked the movie. I do find sadness in it though. As you have aptly put it in some of your replies to comments, many things have been done in the name of Christianity that are off base. Some probably hate driven and some probably well intended, but off the mark of the spirit of Jesus. I can't say what is right for anyone else. For me, I know that my physical body is slowly breaking down while my spirit continues to grow. Why would this be true if the true essence of my being was not spiritual? And why would my spirit not continue just because my physical body ceased to function? I know that I am drawn to the characteristics of Jesus Christ (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, long suffering, and self control). Jesus is humble and courageous. I choose to want to have a relationship with the God who is love, that I admire, and displays love for me. I have and do experience His love and grace for me and the seen and unseen evidence is very real to me. It saddened me to see the perception of Christians portrayed in this movie. I get it, but it doesn't line up with who I am or the essence of who Jesus is. I am guessing most people make hateful or judgmental comments out of pain or fear or anger. I am far, far from having it all together, but I can honestly say, I personally have received innumerably more judgmental comments for being a Christian than I have ever given to those who has alternate beliefs. I do thank and applaud all those who took the time and had the courage to make such a thought provoking movie. I pray we are all able to find everlasting love and peace in our journey.

James van Maanen said...

Dear Anonymous--
Your comment made me cry, it seemed so real and honest and caring. I find myself going through much that you seem to be going through right now, though I do not look to any "god" for sustenance. But I can certainly understand your doing so -- and I think Mr. Chapman, the filmmaker, would understand this, too.

I hope everyone who reads this blog will read your comment -- and benefit from it.

Anonymous said...

James, I read your reply and it touched me and literally made me cry as well. So I guess we are even :). Thank you, and peace to you my brother.
Matt t

James van Maanen said...

And peace (and strength and courage) back to you, Matt.

Crystal said...

Hello James-
I just watched the movie. I thought it was great. The "extremist" role was so intense that I actually thought it was meant to be descriptive of the person, not to be a representation of all Christians. I then looked at another sight that brought things to perspective. I notice a difference in your demeanor when you address Christians as apposed to Athiest. Your desire to draw Christians away from God is a little disturbing also. Don't look now, I think your hypocrisy is showing. :0).
I have found that there are so many groups that don't want to be judged doing a lot of the judging lately. I have personally never known any Christian to be this dramatic and I have been a Christian for while. If you have met people like that, I am truly sorry for their misrepresentation of Christ. The anger you present toward God in your messages breaks my heart. You choose not to believe in Him, but why so much hostility? I really did love the film and would have given it many more stars.

James van Maanen said...

Hi, Crystal--
I am so glad that you, as a Christian, could still find this movie so compelling. But of course the character of the fundamentalist could and should not be made to stand for all Christians. No one character can be made to stand for a group. It doesn't work that way. We're all individuals, though many of us seem to want to give our individuality away to (in my mind) odd causes like religion and such.

I am hostile to religion, I guess, because I have seen and continue to see the damage it has done. Read you history to find out what I am talking about.

And, sure, I admit I'm a hypocrite. As I have said fairly often on this blog and elsewhere, I believe that humanity is filled with hypocrites who are heavily in denial. (This may be the only way to get through life, as we know it.) That's human nature. The point is to fight against this as best we can.

And by the way, my dear, why do you use the male pronoun for god? Why not a "she." Or better yet an "it." Again, we need to see god in our own image -- as though anything like me or you or anyone we know could have created the universe! Please.

But anyhow, Crystal, I am very happy that you took the time to post your comment, and that you loved this film. And I wish you well, Christian or no. You certainly sound like one of the kinder kind of that religion.

Anonymous said...

I have just watched the movie it was really good the way each actor that was chosen is great they were perfect for each role the ending made me sad but I might live another day cause of this... I have never heard of this movie but i found it simply by looking up on suicide and just great movie. 4.5/5

James van Maanen said...

Wow, Anon --
You found this movie by looking up stuff that was posted on "suicide"? I can't quite get my mind around calling the young man's death a suicide. It was a sacrifice -- and the only way he knew to prevent the woman he loved from being killed. I don't think that quite qualifies as suicide.

But I am so glad you found the film so fine. I did, too!

John + Annie said...

My husband and I found "The Ledge" on Netflix tonight 1/09/2014. We rated it with 5 stars - it was enthralling, sexy and edgy with a little bit of excitement and romance, plus a little sadness along with a thought provoking message about religion vs. faith vs. live and let live. In the sad ending it really was love that saves it all. Fantastically put together and well acted. We give it two thumbs up! :^)

John + Annie said...

Post Script: I thought the added dramatics with the family of the officer was an interesting twist about honesty, forgiveness and love of family and God. Kudo's to your team. Great job.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks, John + Annie. Couldn't agree with you more. And glad you found and viewed this terrific little film -- that carries a BIG message.

caleb hewlett said...

I wish I would have never looked up the dedication for this movie and came to this site because I greatly enjoyed the movie and I give a standing ovation to charli patrick terrance and liv for the performances. But then I had to read that underneath a nice love story gone bad was suppossed to represent the flaws and impossibilities of christianity I would not have watchdd it because you know what our God is good and our God will always be good I have all the proof I need of his existence just by the ability I haveto breathe air into my lungs or put food into my body and somehow magically my "Non god made body" knows how to turn it into energy well ill tell you this my God created my body and yours too and he put these foods on this earth that he made to keep his children "us" from starving so believe what you want and have at it but anyone who wants answers just do this simple proccess..... grt down on your knees completely open your heart mind and eyes look upon the Lord ask him for forgiveness for your sins and accept him jnto your life and then just grab a Bible and read everything you'll ever need in life is right there in God's word

James van Maanen said...

Gosh, Caleb: I'm glad you enjoyed the movie. But I do wonder how you could have really enjoyed it and not somehow have understood what it was saying. It is not exactly a subtle film. And it is certainly a lot more than "a nice love story gone bad."

Anyway, you go on believing whatever you want to believe. Nobody will take that ability away from you. And I will go on believing (or not) what I want.

But, please, please, please at least do yourself the favor of not imagining that "everything you'll ever need in life is right there in The Bible." That kind of "thinking" precludes any real growth.

silvio r barbosa said...

um bom filme e com um assunto muito polemico acho que ser crente ou ateu
não importa o importante e no que você acredita no que ti faz feliz e que ti traga conforto si deus deu o livre arbítrio intã o deixe cada um escolher no que acreditar não juguem
não critiquem só segão mais felizes amem mais vi vão mais ajudem mais quem precisa tenha uma vida digna para você mesmo não faça mal a aos outros e vocês já estarão no céu do seu coração

Anonymous said...

Exceptional. This movie should have been the video to "take me to church" -by Andrew Hozier.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks to the above two comment posters.

Andrew: Your point is well taken; this film would have made a perfect pairing.

And Silvio: from the little Portuguese I know, I think you've called The Ledge a good film, but I coudn't figure out the rest of your comment. But thanks for posting!

Aaron from Itasca said...

As a lifelong Christian...amazing film. Here's the problem with the world, in one word: religion. There is a huge difference between "religion" and loving the HISTORIC Jesus.
If any film could assist the world with peace, this is it!
Loving the sinner and hating the sin was Jesus. Who am I to judge...that is not my right as a human, believer or not. If we could all meet Jesus, we'd be ashamed at the raping of his words and ideals over the centuries. Who did this? The "religious".
Jesus---I am not saying "God" because that causes so much angst---would have held each of these characters in his arms, welcomed them into his presence. Who are we to do otherwise?
Why can't we all just get along? One word: RELIGION. It is toxic. A relationship and love for the teachings of JESUS is what counts.
Incredible film, I will watch Italy more times with my friends and family, and I know it will evoke many thoughtful and passionate discussions.

James van Maanen said...

Thank you, Aaron from Itasca--
I have to say that I agree with your remarks as thoroughly as I can agree with anything in this long list of comments about a movie that just seems to keep corralling viewers into its embrace.

I am so glad that you got to see THE LEDGE, and that you are able to appreciate it so completely via your ability to distinguish religion from faith.

One question: I am not sure to what the word "Italy" in your last paragraph refers?

james hernandez said...

Muy buena pelicula

James van Maanen said...

Thanks, James -- I surely do agree with you!