Saturday, February 1, 2020

Movie: "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)

I've decided to begin a series called Movie of the Week, in which I will recommend a movie to be seen every week, from the past or the present, with a certain perspective in mind that would be of interest to my readers. This past week I had the opportunity to see the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still on the big screen. It is a favorite film of mine that I have seen at least a handful of times, but never on the big screen. If you have seen this film, then I highly recommend a rewatch if you have never seen it from the perspective mentioned below.

The screenwriter of the film, Edmund North, has said that he intended the main character of the film, the humanoid alien Klaatu, to be a metaphor of Jesus Christ. To do this he made it quit different from the short story it is based on, Farewell to the Master (1940). Of the elements that he added to Klaatu's character, North said, "It was my private little joke. I never discussed this angle with Blaustein or Wise because I didn't want it expressed. I had originally hoped that the Christ comparison would be subliminal." Though they were meant to be subliminal, most are very obvious. Here are some things to look out for:

1. At the very start of the film, one of the radar technicians, upon observing the speed of Klaatu's spaceship, is heard to exclaim, "Holy Christmas"!

2. He comes in human form from the heavens.

3. When Klaatu escapes from the hospital, he steals the clothing of a Maj. Carpenter, carpentry being the profession the Bible says Jesus learned from Joseph, his father.

4. He presents himself as John Carpenter, the same initials as Jesus Christ (and borrowing a given name from one of his disciples, John).

5. He comes to present a message for all mankind.

6. He wants to live among the people.

7. He befriends a child.

8. He teaches the greatest teacher.

9. He possesses wisdom and specialized scientific knowledge beyond any human being.

10. He gives the world a sign of his power.

11. His actions are misunderstood by the people.

12. He is killed by the military authority.

13. He is raised from the dead.

14. He gives a final message with a warning to his admirers before ascending back into the heavens.

Besides the Christ comparison, some have also noted the comparison with the Holy Trinity. If Klaat is the Jesus, then his robot, Gort, can possibly be seen as God the Father. Gort is tall and all-powerful, capable of completely destroying the earth. Gort is like the God of the Old Testament, a frightening and unapproachable God who judges and seeks revenge. He even raises Klaatu from the dead. The ship itself can be seen as representing the Holy Spirit.

The main female in the film, Helen Benson, a widow with a son, can be seen as either a Mary Magdalene type or even the Virgin Mary.

Ultimately the movie, which was released a little over 5 years after World War 2 and in the middle of the Korean War, is about ending the possibility of another war taking place. This message comes through the alien Christ-figure Klaatu.

Enjoy the film!