The Daily Telegraph (Australian edition) "reports" the following:
Pope calls Nicole's movie 'Godless'
By Erin McWhirter
December 21, 2007 01:00am
Article from: The Daily Telegraph
THE Pope has slammed Nicole Kidman's latest movie The Golden Compass, with the Vatican labelling it "Godless and hopeless".
Reviving memories of last year's papal attack on blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, Kidman's new film - which is based on a controversial series of books - has caused quite a stir in Vatican City.
The fantasy thriller this week copped a serve in a lengthy editorial in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
Of course, the Pope has not actually said anything—publicly, at least—about "The Golden Compass" or the His Dark Materials trilogy. It could be that the piece in L'Osservatore Romano accurately reflects what Benedict might think or say about "The Golden Compass," but that's neither here nor there because he did not call the movie "Godless", nor did he "slam" the movie. This is shoddy, sensationalist nonsense (aka, lying), written for one purpose: to sell newspapers. Or perhaps there is a secondary purpose: to nip at the heels of Catholics who have the nerve to stand up to attacks on the Catholic Church—and to roll out yet another Catholic apologist for Pullman's Catholic bashing:
In contrast to the Vatican's view of the film, Father Peter Malone - an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting - said the backlash against The Golden Compass was unwarranted and simply due to Pullman being an "avowed" atheist.
Father Malone remarked while the novel may offend, the film contained nothing that would spark any type of religious controversy.
"The Golden Compass is a powerful mechanism that tells the truth and reveals what others wish to hide," Father Malone said in a film review.
"The film, unlike the book on which it is based, does not raise any theistic or atheistic issues or even questions, so adult Christians can approach this film knowing that the controversy is more around the film rather than what is on the screen."
This very weak line of argument has been addressed well by Steven Greydanus of DecentFilms.com in his review of "The Golden Compass":
Viewed in isolation, in terms of what is actually on the screen, The Golden Compass is nothing like as objectionable as, say, Elizabeth: The Golden Age or The Da Vinci Code. But of course the film doesn’t exist in a vacuum. One can no more consider it purely in isolation than one could ignore the source of, say, a quasi-sanitized adaptation of The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk. Or, to cite an actual film, D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation significantly toned down the racism of its source material, Thomas Dixon’s novel The Clansmen, but it still helped to promote the novel’s white-supremacist milieu, substantially contributing to the resurgent 20th-century Ku Klux Klan.
The critic, as a critic, can only evaluate the film as a film. Yet no responsible, thinking adult can ignore the larger cultural context to which a film belongs. Weitz’s The Golden Compass is now a pivotal property in a franchise that includes the three novels to date, the future films that may (depending on this film’s performance) be made, and the additional novels that Pullman plans to write, exposure and sales of which would inevitably benefit from this and any future films, if successful. This also, not just the images on the screen, is part of the reality of the film.
Fr. Malone, incidentally, is the author of the November 25th SIGNIS review of "The Golden Compass" that I remarked upon here. He is an associate at SIGNIS of Sister Rose Pacatte, whose positive musings on the movie and Pullman's beliefs have been positively off the mark. What is strange, I think, about Malone and Pacattes' comments about the movie is that they, as proponents of media mindfulness (which is how Pacatte describes herself) don't seem to comprehend how interconnected are movies, books, video games, websites, etc. in today's popular culture. Their insistence on "reviewing" the movie in isolation from Pullman's books and public statements is certainly naive; it also borders on being purposefully misleading. Isn't it a wee bit ironic that those Catholics (notably William Donahue of The Catholic League, along with others) criticized by these self-proclaimed media experts exhibit a far more better understanding and appreciation of how media and culture actually work?
Finally, how pathetic is it that The Daily Telegraph will publish a story about the Pope saying something he never said while never bothering to print any of the many anti-Christian remarks that have been made by Philip Pullman?
Also, here are a few recent and related news/opinion pieces that might be of interest:
• "Compass pointed toward good Catholics" | by Terry Mattingly of GetReligion.org.
• "A Catholic critic might lose his job over 'The Golden Compass'" | Pop Watch blog