Image by Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment

Normally when I think of religious films or books, I cringe internally expecting the most horrifying representation of that religious sect. But, not unlike the smash hit Life of Pi, I found The Shack an equally impressive, eye opening experience, about faith and religion. I’ve always had a strong interest in religion and have always been open to new perspectives. The Shack stimulated my senses and filled the craving for knowledge that I so desired. The film is based on the bestselling novel The Shack by William. P. Young but was adapted and directed by Stuart Hazeldine. Hazeldine is better known for his writing capabilities, writing the 2009 feature film titled Exam and the script for 2003 TV movie Riverworld. The Shack was his debut as a director, although you really wouldn’t know he is new to the game.

The story is considered a fantasy, albeit religious in context, and frames itself around the life of protagonist Mackenzie Phillips, portrayed by Sam Worthington (Avatar). Mack and his family are enjoying a summer holiday when a tragedy occurs. His youngest daughter Missy goes missing and is soon to be considered abducted by a cruel murderer known as the ‘Littlelady Killer’. It’s soon concluded that young Missy is dead, the last sign of her being at a small dilapidated shack in the middle of nowhere. The story then skips ahead a little to the present day where Mack and his family still struggle with the loss. On one not so special day, Mack receives a note asking him to visit the haunting shack where Missy was last detected, the note becomes even more peculiar when it is signed by someone claiming to be ‘Papa’, the name Mack’s wife uses when referring to God. Expecting the note to have come from the Littlelady Killer as a cruel taunt, Mack heads off to the shack, expecting a showdown. But to his surprise, it is none other than God herself (yes God can also be a woman), the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ awaiting him. Together they manage to piece together Mack’s damaged soul, from his childhood horrors to young Missy’s disappearance. They slowly work through all of his questions and frustrations- arguments that have been made by even the most faithful Christian.

After watching the film and reading the novel previously, one realises that Mack is a representation of all humans. His questions, anger and fears mirror those we all have at one point or another in our lives. Mack’s character is a direct imitation of the human condition with all of our colourful emotions, faults and inadequacies. The representation of God’s character is often hit and miss, in some movies God is fierce and brutal, in others he is nothing but a comical figure, like Morgan Freeman’s representation in 2003 feature, Bruce Almighty.  To have mastered God’s character in the way Hazeldine has, both fierce, loving and everything in between is truly a credit to him. Besides the brilliant complexities within the plot itself, the general artistry of the film is something to be admired. With bright colours, beautiful landscapes and a stunning paradise, The Shack fills you with hope and satisfaction that all is as it should be. My last note would be that the film remains true to the original novel, leaving the audience with a deep sense of fulfilment.

The Shack. Director: Stuart Hazeldine. Released March 2017.

 

Lauren Noding

Lauren Noding

Lauren Victoria Noding was born and raised in London, but spent eight years living in the coastal county of Dorset. She has been a carer for most of her life, helping her mother with a debilitating mental illness. She has written for two online magazines, ‘The Jupital Newspaper’ and ‘Writing Times’. Meanwhile, she runs her own blog ‘A Writers Desires’ to share her love of YA/Fantasy literature. Now working in book publicity, she relishes sharing great novels with the world. Lauren can often be found making dreamcatchers, writing her first fantasy novel and cuddling her pet corn-snake, aptly named Salazar Slytherin.

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