Sharing God’s Story with Atonement

The following discussion assumes that you have already seen Atonement, do not plan to see it but want to discuss it what friends and family who have, or simply don’t care if the movie is “spoiled.” Consider yourself warned.
Atonement – Review

I really, really wanted to like this film.

I really did.

First, I don’t mind Keira Knightley. I do, however, think she may want to back away from the period pieces for a bit. Second, I might like Mr. Tumnus, sorry, James McAvoy, especially as he makes his transition from Mr. Tumnus to a real Leading Man. As with just about all the other actors, these two did an amazing job.

In addition, the cinematography was spot one. This was an amazingly beautiful movie, for the most part, to watch. Other than these there are really only two things about the actual moviethat I liked:1.The musical score
2.And the library scene.

I really liked the score for one very simple reason; the score of Atonement appealed to my love of Industrial music. Yea, I know this may sound odd, especially for a “period piece,” but at the heart of the score is the use of a typewriter as a musical instrument. This, at a very basic level, is a foundational element of Industrial music; take everyday non musical/instrumental items and use them to make music (i.e., Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten, early Depeche Mode, etc.). The way Dario Marianelli weaved the typing of the typewriter in and out of the score was masterfully done! Also, as a “narrative” element it was very successful in connecting the dots of Robbie’s (McAvoy) writings to Briony’s (Saoirse Ronan, Briony age 13 and Romola Garai, Briony age 18).

In the same way that the score was masterfully composed, so was the library sex scene. As a “Christian” writer, critic, etc., I almost feel obligated to mention how inappropriate, uncalled for, and immoral it was. The problem is I really, really liked this scene; so much so that it makes me want to take my wife in our library, pushed up against our books.
Anyway, the events building up to their rendezvous, coupled with their modest intensity, were perfectly executed allowing for a very satisfying explosion of their sexual tension.

Atonement – Reel Parable

In addition to being a well acted and beautifully filmed epic love story and period piece, Atonement is also a reel parable of biblical truth. As the film’s title implies, well, as it actually states, this is a movie about atonement, and therefore penitence, penance, punishment, apology and making amends. While it may seem that the movie is about Robbie (James McAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley) this film is really all about Briony, her sin, and her quest for atonement, redemption, and restoration.
Out of what seems to be a combination of confusion, jealousy and resentment Briony testifies that she saw Robbie rape Lola (Juno Temple). We know that he didn’t and that he is wrongly accused and unjustly punished.
As the “twist ending” shows us, Robbie and Cecilia are never reunited after they are separated as a result of Briony’s sin; specifically breaking the 9th Commandment and bearing false witness against Robbie. We then spend the rest of the movie waiting for – looking for – atonement.
Although there were more than just the two, these specific movie “tag lines” shed light on the world view presented in Atonement and the atonement represented.
You can only imagine the truth.
Joined by love. Separated by fear. Redeemed by hope.
These tag lines make sense as the older Briony reveals the twist ending via her interview at the end of the movie. The truth we see – the happy ending where our two separated lovers are reunited to live happily after – is only imagined in Briony’s new book, Atonement. It is in this book, this fictional retelling of the true story, that the lovers are redeemed by hope. In the “reality” of the movie they were never reunited and became young casualties of the war.
And in the context of this movie that reality – that TRUTH – becomes inescapable, even for Briony. Even after a long life and successful writing career she is still tormented by her sins.

She gained the world – she lived a long life and established a successful writing career – but lost her sole – even after decades she was still longing for redemption and reconciliation. (Matthew 16:26/Mark 8:36)
Although it is played out in a very post-modern narrative our twist ending lives our two very specific biblical ideas on forgiveness:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16
If we confess our sins, He (Jesus) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:9
It is only after Briony confesses her sins – through the writing of her book, Atonement – that our two lovers find their peace and “eternal” happiness.
And that is source of my love/hate relationship with this movie. It presents such a clear reel parable of forgiveness; Briony confesses her sins our two separated lovers are reunited and live happily ever after. But at the same time the atonement it presents is shallow and unfulfilling.
At the end of Atonement I wanted Briony to feel the forgiveness and cleansing she longed for, but her confession was hallow and misdirected. And Atonement ended without any real atonement.