Monday, March 07, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau: More Jewish Angels?

[Couldn't find an angel in a trilby, so I found a trilby with an angel on it]

(This article has a spoiler alert - don't read if you want to be surprised)

Just returned from seeing the movie The Adjustment Bureau. Well done. Damon and Blunt have good chemistry. It has Jon Stewart. Moreover, the plot - that there are unseen agents, slightly sinister, slightly less than omnipotent, not-quite omniscient enforcers of a higher order called "the plan," an order that controls many events, but hardly all, and mingles constantly with chance - is not so far removed from Jewish notions of the angelic. In fact this is a great movie with a religious theme that doesn't beat you over the head with religion, just the way I like it. More Stranger than Fiction than Left Behind, one can watch it for the pure entertainment value, of which there is a lot, but there is also a message for those willing to receive it.

Even better, the "adjustment" dudes (I'd call them angels) are more Jewish - even the WASPy ones - then most hollywood angels, and its not just because they wear fedoras like stylish Haredim. So what makes these entities MOTs? In most movies, the angels are either Christian or anti-Christian. They are unbendingly moralistic, completely humorless, relentless destroyers, fallen or not, good or evil. Many hollywood angels, even the ones in divine service, are effectively demonic (take Christopher Walker in Prophecy). In Jewish sources, especially in the Hechalot texts, but in other Jewish sources as well, angels are fearsome, stern, but not in constant battle with demonic realms. In fact, devils hardly factor into many legends. The Hechalot texts, especially, are all but bereft of the demonic. God reigns, angels are divine agents, and the only spiritual force who can thwart in angel (as in this movie) is a human being.

Zal g'mor - To learn more consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050


Blogger Maggid said...

Thank you for the review.
That is one cool hat.

8:29 PM  
Blogger בְּשֵם יְהוָֹה וְיֵשׁוּעַ וְרוחַ מִרְיָם said...


3:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also one cool description of the hat.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Dr. David Zuckerman said...

I just stumbled upon your wonderful blog entry, and wanted to say that I agree with your assessment of the Jewish aspects of the story.

In fact, I'd go further. I just read a midrash on this week's parsha that says that everything about a person's life--lifespan, wealth, health, happiness, tragedy--is predetermined except for one thing: whether the individual will be a tzadik or a rasha. That, says the midrash, is up to the individual.

This film resonates this message, though (in an also very Jewish way) the message is hidden.

Anyway, thank you for posting your thoughts and allowing me to respond.

12:06 AM  

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