November 19, 2009


'Like the Book of Job': Cormac McCarthy wanted spiritual metaphors portrayed throughout the film adaptation of his book, The Road, says director John Hillcoat (Brett McCracken, 11/24/2009, Christianity Today)

Your last film, The Proposition, seems to share some of the same tone and spirit as The Road. Both explore dark, bleak, apocalyptic depths. Do you see a correspondence between the two films?

The Proposition was actually inspired by Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, or at least very influenced by it. I had the idea for an Australian western for a long time, but that book was a huge influence. In both The Proposition and The Road, the landscape is sort of primeval and ancient, which becomes a metaphor that I like. It creates such pressure for the characters that tests them all the time. It becomes almost like a third character. That's what I love about McCarthy's writing. And if you've ever been to the Australian outback, it really is like some ancient, primeval land. [...]

Is it true that some of the only direction McCarthy gave to you was to make sure the film kept as many of the book's references to God as possible?

Yes, that's right. Cormac is very intrigued by grace under pressure and a higher spiritual element than man. He's also interested in the struggle of faith. In many ways The Road is like a biblical tale or a parable. It's very simple: A man struggling to survive, haunted by all these memories, who then has a son born into this world. They come across all these obstacles that test them. So in that sense it feels almost like a biblical tale, and it certainly has an incredible moral to tell.

That leap of faith that the boy makes at the end is what it's all about. The boy is the one who saves the man. The man is under pressure, which we completely understand, and under great duress we see his humanity slipping away. It's actually the boy who saves him. He's the one with humanity. But where does the boy get this from? He's born into this God-forsaken place. Where does his "fire" come from? I think it's great that McCarthy sort of leaves this open to interpretation. It works on so many levels. For a lot of people, this idea of "carrying the fire" is clearly a spiritual thing. But for other people it might just mean "the higher power of humanity." But it's definitely also about faith.

Cormac and I did a long interview with the Wall Street Journal recently and it was about all this stuff. Cormac talked about how he was really struck and moved by people like Mother Teresa, who was always struggling with her faith, even at that level. To him that was incredibly profound. For him, The Road is about the struggle of faith, the obstacles on the journey. He created the world of The Road to challenge these people, like the book of Job. It's about the way that these characters react under duress. Under extreme pressure, the essence of humanity comes out. We can all put ourselves in the shoes of the man—because we see step by step with each challenge how he slides a little bit and loses a bit of his humanity. In the end it's the boy who gives back the humanity to the man. Cormac sees it as a spiritual lesson—about "carrying the fire," which is the spirit. He's basically saying, there is something else here.

The great question that Christianity answers is why God has faith in Man.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 19, 2009 7:44 PM
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