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Pricey Alien, Who Artwork in Heaven: Discovering God in Asteroid Metropolis

Pricey Alien, Who Artwork in Heaven: Discovering God in Asteroid Metropolis


Wes Anderson’s movies typically play with a disconnect between their cheerful storybook visible model and their extra somber material and themes. Asteroid Metropolis is probably the starkest instance of this trademark. Following a dizzying framing narrative that situates the story as a play inside a documentary inside a tv program, an upbeat and immaculately-composed title sequence follows a prepare by a vivid desert whereas Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boy’s “Final Practice to San Fernando” performs. 

The descent of the alien on the movie’s midpoint is a sort of divine revelation, an indication from the heavens to these desperately in want of 1.

The upbeat jazz/bluegrass warble suits the painted desert completely, however its repeated chorus (“If you happen to miss this one, you’ll by no means get one other one”) lends the track a deeply melancholy tone; the track, just like the movie, is about final possibilities.

Asteroid Metropolis is a movie about grief, although that goes with out saying in a Wes Anderson film. Particularly, although, it’s a movie about two folks—Jason Schwartzman’s Augie Steenbeck and Scarlett Johansson’s Midge Campbell—left directionless by their grief and in peril of doing irreparable hurt to themselves (Midge speaks calmly of suicide as a useful inevitability, whereas Augie admits very latest ideas of abandoning his household). The titular Asteroid Metropolis and the otherworldly encounter they expertise, the movie’s music and script counsel, is their final alternative to keep away from destruction. An indication from the heavens descends; as Johnny Duncan sang at the start of the movie, “If you happen to miss this one, you’ll by no means get one other one.”

The descent of the alien on the movie’s midpoint is a sort of divine revelation, an indication from the heavens to these desperately in want of 1 (it descends out of a light-weight within the sky, down among the many folks, earlier than ascending once more; a toddler later writes a track in regards to the expertise known as, “Pricey Alien, Who Artwork in Heaven”). The characters who see the alien know they witnessed one thing paradigm-changing, one thing so cosmically important that it has to matter for their very own lives. 

Trailer clip from YouTube

However how, precisely? The creature descends, takes the city’s titular asteroid, poses briefly for Augie’s image, then leaves. What does any of this imply? The characters are left to stew on this query, on their private points, and on the intersections between these items, whereas underneath the instant authorities quarantine that follows.

Watching these characters wrestle to make sense of a divine revelation with unclear which means, I considered Martin Luther, and his distinction between “God hidden” (Deus absconditus) and “God revealed” (Deus revelatus). For Luther, God’s infinite greatness over humanity implies that even when God reveals himself, He stays hidden from us; God’s revelation is each illuminating and complicated. We place confidence in God as a result of God has revealed himself to be good and loving by Christ, however we additionally know that God is working in fearsome, horrible ways in which we don’t perceive and that appear to contradict the goodness revealed in Christ.

“Doesn’t matter [what the play means]. Simply preserve telling the story.”

What can we make of a God who so loves the world that he provides it his only-begotten son, who needs that none ought to perish, however who additionally predestines numerous to everlasting damnation, who sends plagues and earthquakes and wars into the world he supposedly loves? The reply, for Luther, is past human comprehension. We will solely cling to that which God has revealed to us, all of the whereas quaking at that which God has not. Christ is nice; is that the top of the story? For Luther, we are able to’t say; we are able to solely hope. God is meaningless, and for that purpose, His revelation is barely partially comprehensible at finest. 

Luther, I feel, could be at house in Asteroid Metropolis. He could be at house among the many junior stargazers excitedly conspiring to share this miracle with the remainder of the world, and he could be at house with the dour navy males who concern the hazard the alien may portend. He could be most at house, although, with Augie, who close to the top of the movie stops taking part in his character, leaves the play’s set, and confronts the director, asking for an analysis of his efficiency and begging him to clarify what all of it means.

Luther could be at house too, I feel, within the director’s footwear, as he tells Augie that his understanding of the play is much less essential than his willingness to have interaction in it: “Doesn’t matter [what the play means]. Simply preserve telling the story.” This acceptance of insecurity and continuation in religion regardless of itself jogs my memory of a sermon Luther gave on the Canaanite girl in Mark 7, the place he states:

Once we really feel in our conscience that God rebukes us as sinners and judges us unworthy of the dominion of heaven, then we expertise hell, and we predict we’re misplaced ceaselessly. Now whoever understands right here the actions of this poor girl and catches God in his personal judgment, and says: Lord, it’s true, I’m a sinner and never worthy of thy grace; however nonetheless thou hast promised sinners forgiveness, and thou artwork come to not name the righteous, however, as St. Paul says, “to avoid wasting sinners.” 

God’s revelation in Christ, for Luther, is one thing that have to be grasped and proclaimed in opposition to all else, even in opposition to seemingly contradictory revelation from God. The Cannanite girl is an exemplar of religion as a result of she will be able to assert God’s guarantees to God himself; Augie, equally, finds the energy to return to the play even when its director refuses to clarify the which means to him. Within the play, Augie begins a reconciliation along with his spouse’s household, and Midge leaves him her deal with, seemingly pausing her overdose plans in the meanwhile. 

Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boy’s warning is heeded, it appears; Augie and Midge could not have understood the message, however they had been modified by it nonetheless.

God speaks, and God says “sure” to humanity, “sure” to relationship with us, “sure” to our salvation regardless of our unworthiness.

I didn’t discover this ending satisfying on my first viewing, to be sincere. I don’t discover Luther’s bifurcated understanding of revelation satisfying both. I can’t consider it with out additionally pondering of Karl Barth’s rejection of it within the second quantity of Church Dogmatics. Briefly, although God is certainly infinitely larger than humanity, God’s totality is revealed in Christ, not merely in a single a part of God; there isn’t any “hidden God” apart from the one made recognized in Christ. 

The film received me over on second viewing once I realized that Augie’s perspective on the occasions, his confusion main right into a begrudging existential acceptance, will not be the one one current. The movie even jokes about this early on, when he lastly tells his kids of their mom’s dying, and suggests, “Let’s say she’s in heaven, which doesn’t exist for me, in fact, however you’re Episcopalian.”

Certainly, Augie’s son and the opposite junior stargazers instantly really feel an nearly apostolic conviction to share their alien encounter with the world. The youthful “house cadets” are likewise enthralled, and Tex and the opposite locals are very happy to affix the kids of their celebrations. For each character left confounded by the extraterrestrial encounter, one other receives it instantly with pleasure. 

The alien, this signal from heaven, is complicated, certain; however the play’s director encourages Augie to “inform the story anyway.” For as darkish and unusual as Asteroid Metropolis is, it’s thematic core is optimistic: God’s goodness doesn’t depend on our potential to grasp or anticipate it, and our confusion offers but extra alternatives for God to indicate us benevolence (“You may’t get up if you happen to don’t go to sleep!” the actors chant within the movie’s climax). 

Asteroid Metropolis as a movie expresses a conviction that God speaks, however questions whether or not that speech is intelligible. Nonetheless, the actual fact of God’s talking in any respect, clear or not, is a outstanding sufficient factor that it have to be repeated and thought of again and again. 

As Christians, religion permits us to take this conviction and transfer it a step ahead: God speaks, and God says “sure” to humanity, “sure” to relationship with us, “sure” to our salvation regardless of our unworthiness. God loves Augie and Midge, and each profit from the alien’s unusual descent nicely earlier than they perceive it.

Midge and Augie, @asteroidcity/Instagram

Nonetheless, although, the most effective sort of individual to be in Asteroid Metropolis is a toddler, who sees the alien and experiences it with easy pleasure. Via religion, we reply the query from the kid’s track, “Are you buddy or foe?” with the reply, “Buddy!”

However even after we can’t try this, even when, like Augie and Midge, doubt and confusion crowd out all room for pleasure, God nonetheless works for our good. Johnny Duncan was improper in any case; there isn’t any “final likelihood” to expertise God’s mercy, no pit of despair so deep God is not going to descend into it with us like an alien right into a crater. 

In any case, you may’t get up if you happen to don’t go to sleep.


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