I have been working on a photo project today and have not been able to spend much time on the Blog. I wonder if you might permit me to re-present an older blog on a movie that has a lot to say to us about our culture and what we have lost. Perhaps some new readers to the blog will not have seen this post that I wrote about a year and a half ago.
There was a movie from back in the late 1990s called “Blast From The Past” The Movie begins in the early 60s at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. An eccentric man and his pregnant wife have built and elaborate fallout shelter underground in their backyard. It is no ordinary bomb shelter but a large and well stocked one that even allows the growing of food and fish and has many amenities.
When a plane crashes nearby they think the country is under attack and that the Atom Bomb has hit. They run into the shelter and lock it behind them setting the automatic locks not to open for 35 years when the radiation had dissipated.
During this time the pregnant wife gives birth to their son, Adam whom they raise in that shelter. Adam receives the usual education one would expect in the early 60s, strong on reading, writing and arithmetic, American and world history. He also obtains a liberal arts college education from his father who was a professor. The education included Latin, Greek, French and German. Adam also learns all the usual social skills of that time such as basic manners, how to treat a lady, ballroom dancing, the meaning of life. He is also raised to reverence God.
In a way the family was frozen in time and preserved the values of that time of the early 60s. The film does not present that time as flawless. The mother has a bit of a drinking problem, the father is rather eccentric and xenophobic etc.
Suddenly it is 1997 and the locks come open. The family makes its first excursion since the “bomb” went off. The father expects to find that those who survived will show signs of radiation poisoning and that the world will surely manifest many signs of the destruction the bomb surely wrought so they go forth cautiously.
Now, you and I know that no atom bomb ever did go off. Or did it? As they emerge from the bomb shelter the once quaint neighborhood they lived in has become a red light district. They see shocking things. Not only prostitutes and adult book stores, but also drug addicts, trash-filled streets and signs of grave disorder. People are coarse in their behavior etc. They run back into the shelter concluding that things are worse than they thought. They send their son Adam out to get provisions and possibly to find a wife if he can locate someone who is less effected by the “radiation.” Then they will once again throw the locks on the shelter and wait for things to improve on the outsiide lest they be poisoned by it all. In this scene Adam emerges from the shelter and first encounters a drug addict who thinks Adam is God. Adam then goes forth and sees things and people outside for the first time.
As Adam goes forth he discovers that beyond the world of the red light district is less devastated but he still struggles with what he experiences. Families seem in disarray, people are coarse, cynical, and use God’s name in vain. The technology amazes him as do simple things like rain, the open sky and the ocean. In this scene he is troubled by some modern cultural trends and then sees the ocean for the first time:
It is quite clear to us who watch the movie that much has been lost. Adam is head and shoulders above the modern people who surround him. He is kind, respectful, polite, innocent in his interpretation of the world. He is much smarter than those around him as well, having quite an encyclopedic knowledge compared to the moderns around him. In this scene two things are illustrated: his superior education and also his coming to grips with modern technology. How can a computer (a giant thing in his world) be in a house?
And he can dance, really dance! Not just the gyrating common in modern dance floors but the flawless execution of 40s swing is natural to him since he was trained in every form of ballroom dancing by his parents. Here is a dance scene that shows that, while dancing was getting a little risque, it still required training and talent. Pardon some of the language in this clip, but remember the coarsening of culture is what is in on display here.
He is befriended by a young lady named Eve and her brother. They think him to be strange and naive but come to discover he has much to teach. In this scene they ponder something he has taught them about graciousness, kindness and the blessing of strong family ties.
This movie is worth seeing. It is not preachy (like me). It gently suggests to us that we have lost some important things in the past 40 years. Things like kindness, optimism, the value of traditional education, the importance of parents teaching and raising their kids. In many ways the movie gently suggests that we have become coarse, cynical, even vulgar. Family ties have often been severed and culture has melted down to more base level. Education is less thorough and broad, simple things like learning to dance are lost.
As I have already said, the early 1960s was not a perfect time. Many troublesome cultural trends were already well underway. These are not unreported in the movie. But still the point remains, some things of great value have been lost. Adam and his family entered the shelter at the end of an era. Then, a young man steps out the past and is bewildered by what he finds. Technology is impressive, but people seem lost and cynical. The world is hostile and disordered. But he brings with him some healing balm, some of the best virtues of the past, to remind us all that we have lost important things along the way.
The bomb did go off. Not the Atom Bomb, but an even more devastating cultural bomb. Rebuilding will take time.