THREE STARS – Exciting, Suspenseful

When the tip of a tornado descends on a person it is described as feeling like the “finger of God.”  As in other unpredictable experiences of nature’s fury and diseases’ rampages, these catastrophes cause spiritual and emotional anguish, as well as physical devastation.

       We are tormented by questions like:  Why me?  What did I do wrong?  Is life safe?  Is there any way to protect myself?  Will it happen again?

       These and other mysteries torment our souls in part because they are unanswerable.

       Scientific thought tries to tell us that such “acts of God” are only the gathering of natural forces.  The fact that these forces happen to strike us in particular is described only as a coincidence. 

       But the soul is not so sure.  The vast majority of human beings throughout the world do not accept such a tidy explanation.

       Research in spiritual beliefs of the world’s cultures demonstrates the fact that there are many more people who believe there is instead a continuity with nature.  For such people, human decisions and spiritual forces are interlocked with nature in a cosmic struggle of good and evil.

       For such people the tornado’s descent on one home or one town, while leaving a neighbor or a neighboring town untouched,  is seen not as coincidence but as an important spiritual statement, the meaning of which can be discerned.

       This haunting awe of nature and the discovery of its meaning is the theme behind Jan De Bont’s film “TWISTER.”

       Though the film is an innovative showcase of special effects, its science fiction is a vehicle on which the deeper human issues ride.  This is what makes it a valuable film.

       The story begins in an isolated Oklahoma farm house where a young girl named Jo (Helen Hunt as an adult) flees with her mother and father to an old cellar because of a tornado.

       The power of the wind is overwhelming.  The door of the cellar does not hold and her father is physically ripped from the stairs.

       Though at first we don’t realize it, it was not only the father who was taken that night, but the little girl as well.  Jo becomes obsessed with tornadoes.

       Her obsession is overwhelming.  Jo is at once fascinated and drawn to the tornadoes while by terrified by their destruction.  In her attempt to be free of the obsession she risks everything, including her life and marriage.

       In a moving scene in which they have risked their life trying to gain some kind of understanding and therefore control over the tornado, Jo and her estranged husband Bill (Bill Paxton) face, for a moment, the depth of their obsession.  Tied into her wonder of the power of the storm is also a desire to somehow control that power and get her father back.

       Though irrational, such a longing is understandable.  When any person faces diseases and the storms of life are beyond their control, and when science is not yet able to protect us or those we love from such danger, we often respond with irrational obsession.  

       One example is when the terminally ill  risk everything to seek experimental medical treatment.  In a similar way, Jo and Bill risk their lives to put an experimental “Dorothy” instrument into the eye of the twister.  Such attempts illustrate our desire to control the forces of nature.

       Though filmed in Oklahoma, which is a part of the Bible Belt, what is missing from the film is any sense of spiritual insight or guidance in their struggle. 

       The closest substitute is the presence of a wonderful, loving and wise aunt.  Aunt Meg (Lois Smith) accepts who they are and what they do with warmth and country hospitality.   With a home surrounded by wind chimes and wind sculptures, Aunt Meg provides both Jo and Bill with love and encouragement and finally a reason to conquer the storm when she herself is victimized by a tornado.

       TWISTER is a film about nature and its power over our lives.  Though it does not address fully the depth of its topic, the spiritual discussion of how we are related to the rest of creation is important.

       Many, including ourselves, have experienced the power of prayer to not only turn the direction of a twister, but to heal those whose disease is described as terminal.   This fact, that spiritual reality is more powerful than natural forces opens up a whole new level of meaning to this discussion.