Updated: Jul 19
From Like Stories of Old
Cinema as Sermons – Sunshine
Sunshine is a 2007 science fiction psychological thriller film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland. The movie takes place in the year 2057, the story follows a group of astronauts on a dangerous mission to reignite the dying Sun. Sunshine had an ensemble cast: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, and Chipo Chung. Interestingly director Danny Boyle cast a group of international actors for the film, and subsequently had the actors live together, learn about the science related to their roles, a form of method acting.
Screenwriter Alex Garland was inspired to write Sunshine based on scientific ideas about the heat death of the universe in a Scientific American Magazine article - "an article projecting the future of mankind from a physics-based, atheist perspective".
The movies scientific accuracy has been challenged. The movie was modestly successful and received mixed reviews.
An underlying theme in the movie is life, death and meaning. A theme which occupies much of our thinking.
Although not overtly religious Sunshine explores the relationship we have with the Sun as a giver of life. As we know many cultures in the past have worshipped the Sun. There is no doubt there is a spiritual connection to the Sun. The actors speak of darkness and light and how we can become one with it. This deification of the Sun is not new. As one of the crew members sits after having overexposed himself to the suns deadly rays says to his rescuer “Are you an Angel, has the time come?”
“What a man wishes he generally believes to be true” ― Demosthenes
“The light of faith makes us see what we believe.” Thomas Aquinas
But the closer they get to the Sun the more dangerous it gets. To become one with the Sun is death.
“We are dust”. “There will be nothing to show we were ever here.”
The mission soon becomes a one way mission. They all will die. But what they realize is that their death was always ever present, just as our death is immanent. Right now for most of us death is abstract but as we come closer it becomes a reality.
The movie attempts to draw on the Atheistic notion of us being small and insignificant.
In a similar fashion to how we as sinful human beings cannot look upon God the Father with our eyes, we cannot look directly at the Sun. Moses was told the same and his eyes were shielded when God went by. Although God does not speak directly to this fact, we can infer that the eternal power and holiness of God is too much for our limited Human Spirits and Soul to bear.
Our lives are wasted if we seek our happiness and our significance without reference to Jesus Christ. If God is left out of our lives, even if we become a millionaire or have all the sexual pleasures we can imagine and are famous, we have wasted our lives. God is the one who created the world, and God is bringing the world and everything in it to an end for his purposes. And if we haven’t joined him in those purposes, we are wasting our lives. Entertainment, sex, money, fame is all hollow and empty without a humble acknowledgement to its source – Christ Jesus.
Paul had made it part of his life and said, “Whether I live or whether I die, I have one passion: magnify Jesus.”
It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20)
In this excellent video from Like Stories of Old we are given a 10 minute explanation of what lay at the heart of the movie. Like Stories of Old have many other videos I encourage you to watch.
Each individual deals with the overwhelming fact of their mission and the significance of their own lives in the face of such a seemingly endless cosmos.
The beauty of the cosmos is there even without attribution to God, yet God cannot be denied what is from his hand.
Sunshine also asks the question are you afraid of death? A death that is real, inevitable, and perhaps sooner than we think.
One aspect of the film is that the qualities we all possess of being made in God’s image can even in the worst circumstances lead to goodness, love, and compassion. Those who deny God cannot eliminate his gifts to us.
Carl Sagan continues:
“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturing’s, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Carl Sagan’s famous Pale Blue Dot speech given at Cornell University in 1994
The video ends with the distinct voice of Carl Sagan: “Consider again that dot, that’s here, that’s home, that’s us.”