On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema after a 3 week haitus while moving the GCTNetwork studio, we are back to discuss the film CAST AWAY. Is Chuck Noland’s survival a direct result of his losing all control? And isn’t this reminiscent of Jesus telling us not to worry about tomorrow? All that and more in 3…2…1!
Cast Away : Chuck Noland vs. Nature
The main conflict in Cast Away is Man vs. Nature, and as with most stories that revolve around and resolve after this conflict, Nature remains the winner. This is not because Nature remains quietly still, but because Nature is constantly and chaotically changing, and Man finally realizes that he can’t keep up and has to change himself in order to adapt and survive. This is the transformation that we can track in the character of Chuck Noland and from which we can ultimately acquire our Christian application.
First, let’s look at Chuck’s breakout monologue:
Time rules over us without mercy, not caring if we’re healthy or ill, hungry or drunk, Russian, American, beings from Mars. It’s like a fire: it could either destroy us or keep us warm. That’s why every FedEx office has a clock. Because we live or die by the clock. We never turn our back on it. And we never, ever allow ourselves the sin of losing track of time.
This is the image we get of Chuck at the onset of the film: a man who likes to be in control. He lives by the clock and wants to keep it that way. We can see it as he rushes to get all the packages moved off of the booted truck and onto the other trucks. This philosophy also permeates his personal life as we see he and Kelly both whip out their planners to rearrange the schedule around Chuck’s surprise business trip. As long as he knows what time it is, he is in control of his life and his future.
As the story progresses, however – starting with the plane crash and fleshing out as he works out his own survival on the island – Chuck slowly realizes that he is losing track of time; that is, he is committing the same “sin” that he was so adamantly opposed to in his opening speech.
He tries to keep track of time in the cave – and actually does this exceptionally well with just tick marks etched in the cave wall – but it doesn’t compare to the Memphis time he used to keep on Kelly’s pocket-watch. Here, he is gradually losing more and more track of time, as if slowly stepping further and further away from a lamp in the darkness. And every day he spends on the island thus becomes a step further away from any hope of ever escaping the island.
This hope is eventually revitalized when the port-a-potty comes ashore and he is able to craft a sail for his raft that is able to overcome the crashing and towering waves, but until then, Chuck has had a life-altering revelation of which he speaks in another monologue after revisiting Kelly and finding that she has already moved on.
…’cause I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone…I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing…And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing…And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back…and I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?
Chuck finally admits that his control has limitations and is actually dependent on something bigger than him. After finally hitting the figurative bottom, he came back and decided that what really mattered was the present – that which was immediately around him. He was shaken to the core by his conflict with nature and emerged not a victor but a survivor because of his transformation.
Cast Away : Don’t Worry About Tomorrow
Something Chuck Noland found out the hard way is that he isn’t in control like he thought he was. His realization is expressed nicely in James’s word in his letter to the tribes:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14 ESV)
Chuck’s obsession with keeping track of time was hindering his living of a fulfilled life. He was too caught up in the hustle and bustle of being at certain places at a certain times and scheduling and rescheduling meetings and events to realize that none of that stuff is as important as “breathing” in the moment.
This reminds me so much of the Psalmist’s image “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105) because a lamp only illuminates the immediately surrounding area. Anything too far from the light in any direction – either in front of, behind, or on either side – is dark and will remain dark until another step is taken.
Chuck wants to know everything and be in control of everything at the beginning of the film. While he’s only holding a lamp, he wants to know the layout and nature of the entire proverbial cavern. His transformation, however, results in him being content within his limitations and accepting the fact that he only needs to concern himself with present.
Jesus said it best in his Sermon on the Mount, which leads us at last to our key text for this episode, Matthew 6:34 (NET): “So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”
God has always wanted to take care of us and our essential needs; such needs range from the small stuff like food, shelter, and clothing all the way to the biggest things like giving us the opportunity through Jesus to rejoin Him in his dwelling place and ultimately propagate the new heaven and new earth by His side.
After all, He’s got the whole world in His hands.
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Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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