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"Bagger's work begins only after belief, faith and willingness have entered the picture."

 

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. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above.

  Raymond Teague, 
"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 possible.

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 life.

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 club. 

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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