Mockingbird at the Movies: Coraline

I saw Coraline this week and it was, in all honesty, one of the most […]

R-J Heijmen / 2.13.09

I saw Coraline this week and it was, in all honesty, one of the most creative and beautiful movies I have ever seen (watch the trailer below), a wonder of eye-popping claymation that is sure to become a classic, especially for those who enjoy their films with a side of mood-altering substances. I highly recommend it to everyone, except children. It is horrifying.

Even so, something about Coraline did not sit quite right, and when I saw a poster in the 68th street subway station (pictured at right), it finally hit me.

The plot centers around a young girl, Coraline, the unfortunate only child of two workaholics who make it painfully obvious that they have no time for her. Happily, Coraline discovers a door into an alternate world that is very much like her own, only better. In this world, the fantastic is commonplace and, more importantly, her parents love her.
Oh, and everyone has buttons for eyes.
As Coraline makes repeated visits to this parallel universe, she becomes increasingly tempted to stay, the only problem being that taking up permanent residence entails allowing her “other” mother to sew buttons on her eyes as well. Eventually it becomes clear that this mother is not, in fact, good, but actually some sort of demon who wishes to enslave Coraline’s soul.

The thing that bothers me about Coraline is its message that happiness is an impossible dream, and that those who seek or partake in it are necessarily living in denial (lost their eyes), that they can’t “see” the truth – the ultimate hoplessness and meaninglessness of life. As the poster says, “be careful what you wish for”, the idea being that if something seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
Contrast this with the Christian idea that there really is a heaven, a place where every tear will be wiped from our eyes and that beauty, far from being some sort of diversion from reality, is actually a foretaste of what is to come. Writing about our (and Coraline’s) need for something more, St. Paul says, “we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons (and daughters), the redemption of our body.” For Coraline, the groaning for something more goes forever unfulfilled, the need for love forever unmet. Not so in Christianity.