If you think Gone Girl is a film about marriage, you’re mistaken. It’s certainly no how-to pamphlet, and I’m not even so sure it is a commentary on the “state” of marriage today. If it is a commentary, the movie takes quite a cynical approach, and I suppose I’m too rosy-eyed to allow such a brutal depiction. Call me naïve or idealistic. Clearly, there are massive struggles that come with marriage—commitment is no small thing. But if anything, Gone Girl might be a twisted parody, a desperate image of what we can do to ourselves. And because of that, I’d argue that David Fincher and co. have given us a portrait of what it means to be turned in on ourselves.
I’ll elaborate with a story. Gwyn and I walked out of Gone Girl into a cold and dark autumn night. Immediately I knew the movie messed me up. I felt shaken, nearly paranoid, and weirdly unsettled. It felt like the evil I just witnessed sat in the air. All my faults, my insincerities, my darknesses—all these flashed through my mind, and I didn’t like it. Like I said, the film messed me up. This led to something mirroring a panic attack, not full-blown but still paralyzing. I didn’t like who I was, and I didn’t like how it felt. Gwyn was rightly confused; it was only a movie, and a slightly ridiculous one at that. But it triggered my anxiety in such a way that I didn’t know what to do.
So the question I’ve asked myself since that night: what exactly triggered my anxiety? At first I thought it was the depravity of it all, the forceful evil that underwrote every scene. But honestly, I don’t ascribe to any kind of wormology. I wasn’t worried I’ve been stifling the enormous amount of evil within me. Total depravity does NOT mean we’re all as evil as evil can be; rather, it holds that nothing remains unmarred by sin. We are not worms waiting for our evil to be unlocked and incapable of any good.
The more I reflected, the more I realized that what upset me so fundamentally was the film’s response to evil: it’s here and it’s devastating but we just have to live with it. Without spoiling too much, the movie ends unexpectedly and without much hope. Usually I’m fine with hopeless conclusions because they represent those truly horrible moments in our lives—they give us a fuller picture of reality.
But I’m not okay with being okay with hopelessness. This, I think, is what disturbed me so profoundly, and what really defines true selfishness: the fact that we’re so often unmoved by evil and hopelessness in this world. And so even if nothing changes in this life, even if to hope against hopelessness bears no tangible fruit, to be human (and to be Christian) means we have to protest.
We have to rail against injustice and doggedly lament evil. We have to mourn and cry out and punch the air and scream that this is not the way things are supposed to be. And if we ever stop, if we ever resign ourselves to being okay with evil and hopelessness, then we’ve truly given up. Then we’ve really lost our way.
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.