Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Seven Deadly Sins

Long is the way. And hard, that out of hell leads up to light"
-John Milton

When I was in high school I became obsessed with the movie "Seven". It's about a serial killer who kills his victims according to the seven deadly sins. The movie is a very dark portrait of a decaying American city, filled with crime, despair and awash in sin. I loved it and it had a profound affect on my during my adolescents. I wanted to do what the killer did, and rid the world of evil people. I've grown out of this fantasy over the years, and now that I'm older and know a great deal more about religion, I can reflect on the movie and its theme.

The seven deadly sins are not mentioned in the Bible, or by Jesus, they came about hundreds of years later in the 4th century by a monk named Evagrius Ponticus. They're an interesting list of vices that I won't dwell too deep into. They are:

Lust
Gluttony
Greed
Sloth
Wrath
Envy
Pride

I haven't read much literature about the seven deadly sins, but I might in the future. The movie is what I'm focusing on. It's suppose to be New York, before gentrification, before there was a Starbucks on every corner and million dollar condos were being built right next to housing projects. But New York is never mentioned in the movie, and the city is suppose to be a large anonymous American city, a template that could substitute for any large urban center. I loved how dark they made the movie. Seven was the darkest movie I had ever seen up until that point. Even the score was extremely dark and moody. The director used these low camera angles, and very low, dim lighting that is often pierced by bright yellow flash lights. We never see much of the cityscape, but only close ups of its more uglier districts. Every day it rains during the scenes in the movie, kind of like what's been going on in NY for the past 4 days. Rain rain rain. It's pouring rain now. The weather reminded me of the movie Seven and I guess that's why I wanted to write this post.

On the seven sins, the killer finds one person that exemplifies each sin to its extreme. An obese man, obviously guilty of gluttony; a lawyer filled with greed; a drug addict and pedophile guilty of sloth; a prostitute - lust; a beautiful model full of pride. The last two sins are part of the twist ending, and killers plan for himself to die. I see the movie as an example of how religion can make a man go absolutely insane with obsession and to find a perverse way to justify murder. I mean the killer was probably insane already, but religion gave him the justification he needed to torture and kill his victims. In his eyes, they were guilty of sin, of violating God's laws, and he was doing God's work by killing them. He thought God was on his side. He believed he was chosen by God to commit the murders he did: a martyr for God. Christopher Hitchens ponders what limits will people put on themselves when committing evil acts if they think they have God on their side. He makes the argument that when people think God is on their side, they will stop at nothing. No amount of violence or death is too much for the believer who thinks God is on their side, it justifies everything that might otherwise be deemed immoral.

And the movie "Seven" shows exactly how that can be true.


"One pound of flesh, no more no less, no cartilage no bone but only flesh, this task done...and he would go free."



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