Expensive Alien, Who Artwork in Heaven: Discovering God in Asteroid Town


Wes Anderson’s movies frequently play with a disconnect between their cheerful storybook visible taste and their extra somber material and issues. Asteroid Town is in all probability the starkest instance of this trademark. Following a dizzying framing narrative that situates the tale as a play inside a documentary inside a tv program, an upbeat and immaculately-composed identify collection follows a educate via a shiny wilderness whilst Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boy’s “Ultimate Educate to San Fernando” performs. 

The descent of the alien on the movie’s midpoint is one of those divine revelation, an indication from the heavens to these desperately short of one.

The upbeat jazz/bluegrass warble suits the painted wilderness completely, however its repeated chorus (“If you happen to leave out this one, you’ll by no means get any other one”) lends the tune a deeply despair tone; the tune, just like the movie, is set final probabilities.

Asteroid Town is a movie about grief, although that is going with out announcing in a Wes Anderson film. In particular, although, it’s a movie about two other folks—Jason Schwartzman’s Augie Steenbeck and Scarlett Johansson’s Midge Campbell—left directionless through their grief and in peril of doing irreparable hurt to themselves (Midge speaks lightly of suicide as a purposeful inevitability, whilst Augie admits very contemporary ideas of forsaking his circle of relatives). The titular Asteroid Town and the otherworldly come across they enjoy, the movie’s song and script counsel, is their final alternative to steer clear of destruction. An indication from the heavens descends; as Johnny Duncan sang at the start of the movie, “If you happen to leave out this one, you’ll by no means get any other one.”

The descent of the alien on the movie’s midpoint is one of those divine revelation, an indication from the heavens to these desperately short of one (it descends out of a mild within the sky, down a number of the other folks, sooner than ascending once more; a kid later writes a tune in regards to the enjoy referred to as, “Expensive Alien, Who Artwork in Heaven”). The characters who see the alien know they witnessed one thing paradigm-changing, one thing so cosmically important that it has to topic for their very own lives. 

Trailer clip from YouTube

However how, precisely? The creature descends, takes the city’s titular asteroid, poses in short for Augie’s image, then leaves. What does any of this imply? The characters are left to stew in this query, on their private problems, and at the intersections between this stuff, whilst below the fast executive quarantine that follows.

Observing those characters fight to make sense of a divine revelation with unclear which means, I considered Martin Luther, and his difference between “God hidden” (Deus absconditus) and “God printed” (Deus revelatus). For Luther, God’s countless greatness over humanity signifies that even if God finds himself, He stays hidden from us; God’s revelation is each illuminating and complicated. We place confidence in God as a result of God has printed himself to be just right and loving via Christ, however we additionally know that God is operating in fearsome, horrible ways in which we don’t perceive and that appear to contradict the goodness printed in Christ.

“Doesn’t topic [what the play means]. Simply stay telling the tale.”

What can we make of a God who so loves the sector that he provides it his only-begotten son, who wants that none will have to perish, however who additionally predestines numerous to everlasting damnation, who sends plagues and earthquakes and wars into the sector he supposedly loves? The solution, for Luther, is past human comprehension. We will solely dangle to that which God has printed to us, all of the whilst quaking at that which God has no longer. Christ is just right; is that the top of the tale? For Luther, we will’t say; we will solely hope. God is meaningless, and for this reason, His revelation is solely partly comprehensible at highest. 

Luther, I believe, could be at house in Asteroid Town. He could be at house a number of the junior stargazers excitedly conspiring to proportion this miracle with the remainder of the sector, and he could be at house with the dour army males who concern the chance the alien would possibly portend. He could be maximum at house, although, with Augie, who close to the top of the movie stops enjoying his persona, leaves the play’s set, and confronts the director, inquiring for an analysis of his efficiency and begging him to give an explanation for what all of it method.

Luther could be at house too, I believe, within the director’s footwear, as he tells Augie that his working out of the play is much less vital than his willingness to interact in it: “Doesn’t topic [what the play means]. Simply stay telling the tale.” This acceptance of lack of confidence and continuation in religion in spite of itself rings a bell in my memory of a sermon Luther gave at the Canaanite lady in Mark 7, the place he states:

After we really feel in our judgment of right and wrong that God rebukes us as sinners and judges us unworthy of the dominion of heaven, then we enjoy hell, and we expect we’re misplaced endlessly. Now whoever understands right here the movements of this deficient lady and catches God in his personal judgment, and says: Lord, it’s true, I’m a sinner and no longer worthy of thy grace; however nonetheless thou hast promised sinners forgiveness, and thou artwork come to not name the righteous, however, as St. Paul says, “to avoid wasting sinners.” 

God’s revelation in Christ, for Luther, is one thing that will have to be grasped and proclaimed in opposition to all else, even in opposition to apparently contradictory revelation from God. The Cannanite lady is an exemplar of religion as a result of she will be able to assert God’s guarantees to God himself; Augie, in a similar way, unearths the power to go back to the play even if its director refuses to give an explanation for the which means to him. Within the play, Augie starts a reconciliation together with his spouse’s circle of relatives, and Midge leaves him her deal with, apparently pausing her overdose plans in the intervening time. 

Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boy’s caution is heeded, it sort of feels; Augie and Midge won’t have understood the message, however they have been modified through it however.

God speaks, and God says “sure” to humanity, “sure” to courting with us, “sure” to our salvation in spite of our unworthiness.

I didn’t to find this finishing fulfilling on my first viewing, to be truthful. I don’t to find Luther’s bifurcated working out of revelation fulfilling both. I will be able to’t recall to mind it with out additionally considering of Karl Barth’s rejection of it in the second one quantity of Church Dogmatics. Briefly, although God is certainly infinitely more than humanity, God’s totality is printed in Christ, no longer merely in a single a part of God; there’s no “hidden God” as opposed to the only made identified in Christ. 

The film received me over on 2nd viewing after I learned that Augie’s point of view at the occasions, his confusion main right into a begrudging existential acceptance, isn’t the one one provide. The movie even jokes about this early on, when he in spite of everything tells his kids in their mom’s loss of life, and suggests, “Let’s say she’s in heaven, which doesn’t exist for me, after all, however you’re Episcopalian.”

Certainly, Augie’s son and the opposite junior stargazers in an instant really feel a virtually apostolic conviction to proportion their alien come across with the sector. The more youthful “area cadets” are likewise enthralled, and Tex and the opposite locals are more than pleased to sign up for the kids of their celebrations. For each and every persona left confounded through the extraterrestrial come across, any other receives it in an instant with pleasure. 

The alien, this signal from heaven, is complicated, certain; however the play’s director encourages Augie to “inform the tale anyway.” For as darkish and ordinary as Asteroid Town is, it’s thematic core is constructive: God’s goodness does no longer depend on our talent to know or await it, and our confusion supplies but extra alternatives for God to turn us benevolence (“You’ll’t get up in the event you don’t go to sleep!” the actors chant within the movie’s climax). 

Asteroid Town as a movie expresses a conviction that God speaks, however questions whether or not that speech is intelligible. Nonetheless, the truth of God’s talking in any respect, transparent or no longer, is a exceptional sufficient factor that it will have to be repeated and thought to be over and over again. 

As Christians, religion lets in us to take this conviction and transfer it a step ahead: God speaks, and God says “sure” to humanity, “sure” to courting with us, “sure” to our salvation in spite of our unworthiness. God loves Augie and Midge, and each have the benefit of the alien’s ordinary descent neatly sooner than they comprehend it.

Midge and Augie, @asteroidcity/Instagram

Nonetheless, although, the most productive more or less particular person to be in Asteroid Town is a kid, who sees the alien and stories it with easy pleasure. Thru religion, we solution the query from the kid’s tune, “Are you buddy or foe?” with the solution, “Pal!”

However even if we will’t do this, even if, like Augie and Midge, doubt and confusion crowd out all room for pleasure, God nonetheless works for our just right. Johnny Duncan was once fallacious in spite of everything; there’s no “final probability” to enjoy God’s mercy, no pit of melancholy so deep God is not going to descend into it with us like an alien right into a crater. 

In the end, you’ll be able to’t get up in the event you don’t go to sleep.



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