work begins only after belief, faith and willingness have entered the
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower, from Unity House.
He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff.
book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above.
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
The Legend of Bagger Vance
(2000, 128 minutes, PG-13)
Director Robert Redford's newest film could be titled A Golf Course
Runs Through It.
In his 1992 film A River Runs Through It, based
on Norman Maclean's autobiography, Redford presented the sport of
fly-fishing as a metaphor for life. "Eventually," concluded
one of the movie's main characters, "all things merge into one, and
a river runs through it."
In The Legend of Bagger Vance, based on Steven Pressfield's
novel, Redford now presents the sport of golf as a metaphor for life. In
the movie, the art of golf is seen to represent a connection with the
rhythm of God.
"The rhythm of the game is just like the rhythm of life," says
title character Bagger Vance.
Bagger Vance (a perfectly understated Will Smith) is the mysterious
caddy who helps former golf prodigy Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) regain
his "authentic swing." That swing went out of Junuh in the
trenches of World War I, and the story's beginning finds Junuh a broken
man living the marginal
life in Depression-era Savannah.
A golf tournament organized by Junuh's one-time sweetheart Adele (Charlize
Theron), however, gives Junuh an opportunity to reenter the games of
golf and life. And, the Bible tells us, with God all things are
Enter the spiritual presence, then, in the persona of Bagger Vance.
Viewers can quickly discern that Bagger Vance is not your ordinary
caddy: He knows Junuh's thoughts and needs, he foretells the weather and
the future, and he dispenses spiritual wisdom with the ease and
authority of Divinity Itself.
The story draws its inspiration from the epic poem
"Bhagavad-gita," a revered Hindu spiritual text in which
Krishna, an incarnation of the god Vishnu, offers instructions about
Bagger Vance ostensibly gives Junuh advice about how to play better golf
but actually advises him - and all of us - about how to live a better,
more spirit-centered, life.
Bagger's work begins only after belief, faith and willingness have
entered the picture. Junuh admits his condition ("I lost my
swing," he says) and makes the decision to get out of his despair.
Through Bagger's instructions, Junuh begins coming to terms with his
inner demons (personal fears and thoughts of alienation and limitation,
derived from his war experiences and insecurities).
Patiently and calmly, Bagger directs Junuh to the spiritual calm at the
center of his human storms. He reminds Junuh that his "authentic
swing" or his life rhythm is somewhere in the harmony of all that
was, is and will be.
"Inside each and every one of us is one authentic
swing," Bagger says.
To see the totality of all being, to really feel that
completeness, Bagger encourages Junuh to focus on the field of life,
that point in consciousness when "everything that is becomes one...
You've got to seek that place with your soul."
In life, such inner spiritual work is up to the
individual and comes only through sincere searching and feeling. As
Bagger tells Junuh, "I can't take you there," but can only
help you find a way.
Some viewers, thinking that the film's message is a bit heavy-handed,
may feel as if they've been hit over the head with a spiritual golf
However, sometimes such a blow is needed as a wake-up
call. It's worth it to give Bagger's ideas a chance.
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