In Bruges

Every work of art can be seen as many things, depending on the viewer’s background, attitude, etc. In every work of art we probably see much more than the artist originally intended to put into their piece. This probably happens because an artist is a spokesperson for a higher conscience that some call God, others inner voice, or something else; sometimes an artist sets out to create a piece of art which ends up meaning something completely different for somebody else. This is not the misunderstanding of art: it’s the natural way audiences worldwide are ready to open up to ideas, or to give way to emotions they have been repressing. I only say this because what I see in this film is probably something completely different from what Martin McDonagh originally wanted to state in his brilliant first feature-length piece, In Bruges.

If you’ve seen it, you know what it’s about. If you haven’t, do. I will not go into plot details.

What struck me while watching the film for the fourth time, possibly because I am on a fascinating journey of self-discovery and one of getting to know, understand and accept other human beings around me, was that this movie tells a story of forgiveness and redemption in a very significant way. I find it a highly spiritual movie for several reasons. It takes the most important divine guidance regarding thy fellow neighbour laid down at the dawn of Christian history, You shall not kill, and turns it into the face of bigotry everywhere. Because what is regarded as the biggest crime one can commit against another human being? In most parts of the world, it’s killing someone. For 999 out of 1,000 people, killing someone would be unpardonable. We have Ray and Ken, two cold-blooded hit-men, and their boss, Harry, who would make a great case on a shrink’s couch, and by the end of the movie, we get to like, nay, respect these three individuals. Even Harry, who is a ruthless bastard, but who has his rules, and he sticks to them, even if that means ending his own life. The writer of this fantastic piece pushes the nail even deeper: he shows Ray kill a priest on purpose, and a child by mistake. The Catholic church is literally crucified in the movie, and yet, the viewer is almost forced to forgive Ray. These three should be despised, hated, and outcast from society, as I am sure many people would agree; but instead of being outcasts, they learn to recognize their crimes, they learn to forgive each other and themselves, and they get to step on that path which is searched by all who search enlightenment.

So, the murderers get to be redeemed. How is that possible?! Christ said to the criminal hanging next to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Martin McDonagh simply works with the example Jesus set for every follower of his: an artist, first and foremost, must focus on love, truth, beauty, and everything that ends in God, or whatever people like to name it/him/her. An artist, if he advocates hatred instead of love, is not fulfilling his or her destiny, because every truth, every reality and aspect of life that artists are supposed to cast light on, should lead to agape, that highest form of love humans can attain. What can be more filled with unconditional love (for us, erring humans) than forgiving a sinner? Ray forgives Ken for trying to shoot him, Ken forgives Harry for having shot his wife decades earlier, and Harry- well, he still has a little way to go. But despite the horrible events that led to a cataclysmic, surreal conclusion in Bruges, these three are close to learning their lesson.

If we understand this, and if we are ready to love these sinners, we are close, too.