The Ledge - why aren't there more atheistic films?

So I just received the blu-ray for The Ledge whose description is below. It is probably one of the first films to openly tackle the philosophy of religion and I am looking forward to watching it. However, it got me thinking, what atheistic films are there out there, and why aren't there more films that deal directly with these sorts of issues.

I suppose, in essence, the answer to that could be quite simple - because they don't command decent enough incomes; because the negative press they would get from the Bible Belt might damage the film's chances of making good money, and so on. Indeed, the film (based on a Carl Sagan book) Contact, was unable to remain faithful to Sagan in exploring the science vs religion debate by softening the debate and changing the ending (apparently - I have not seen it). The superb The Invention of Lying by Ricky Gervais had some extraordinarily good scenes (the 10 Commandments scene is one of my favourite all-time scenes) and I would hail it as the first openly atheistic film (and the internet infidels list these as atheistic films). Many others probably have covert undercurrents of exploring such subject matter, but disguise the subtext so as to appeal to the largest audience possible.

The Ledge, on the other hand, seems pretty overt. Here is the synopsis:

One step can change a life forever in THE LEDGE, a sexy and suspenseful thriller, starring Charlie Hunnam, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson and Terrence Howard.

After embarking on a passionate affair with his evangelical neighbor's wife (Tyler), Gavin (Sons of Anarchy's Hunnam) soon finds himself in a battle of wills that will have life or death consequences. As a nonbeliever, Gavin is lured by his lover's husband (Insidious's Wilson) to the ledge of a high rise and told he has one hour to make a choice between his life or the one he loves. Without faith in an afterlife, will he be able to make a decision? It's up to police officer Hollis (Howard) to save both their lives, but the clock is ticking in this edge-of-your-seat film that will leave you gasping until the final frame.
It comes down to this choice in the film: does an atheist have a moral worldview and reason that would cause him to kill himself rather than have the woman he loves murdered?

What I really want to look at here is not so much this film, but why there are not more films like it.

Now, any good film rests on a good story. The problem is that films which accept a supernaturalist take on the world, or things that can happen irrespective of our skeptic and cynical worldviews, have by definition a wider palette from which to paint their story. An atheistic film, if representing the truth of the world, has the narrower set of contexts within which to set the story. One cannot include anything supernatural, magical or mysterious in the sense that it would properly question such sceptical ideals.

This means that, in order to delve into such ideas of philosophy and religion, an atheistic film would more likely be a character driven drama than a special effects blockbuster with undertones of the supernatural or suspension of belief. At the end of the day, films are about escapism. Escaping from reality. Which often means entering the unreal.

Maybe the reasons are more closely associated with the following reasn, given by a poster on this topic elsewhere:

Actually I think most filmmakers and novelists today are atheists and they more or less operate in what they take to be a godless universe. Many of them find this so obvious that it’s not even worth commenting on.
Or perhaps, even, it comes from the actors desires, as set out below by another poster:

In my opinion, and answering MARQ’s question about the lack of atheist films, i think the matter is related to how much an artist would want to put a clear and direct message in his film, without utlilizing ambiguity, which is not considered a good idea by most serious artists, i mean, the usual highbrow look towards films is that it is a fully rejected idea to make a film that hammers a point or a message and tries to squeeze down the audience throats, fine, but when we say that, do we just mean a social or moral messages only or shouldn’t the idea also extended to personal beliefs? in other words, in my opinion, film watching (or reading books, or receiving any work of art in general) is a matter of exploration, the eventual work of art will be something that was jointly built by both the artist and the watcher, which requires leaving room for ambiguity, in order to give the viewer the chance to fill the gaps and personalize this work of art, that’s why, while i don’t specifically remmeber movied that directly make the case that God doesn’t exist, i certainly wouldn’t have considered such a film to be worth watching, at least for me, the artist has already mad ehis point, what is left for me to do?

Consequently, that leads us to the fact that artists (and i mean real artists) rarely, if ever, state their own personal beliefs clearly, believing in god or not is part of the the artist’s quest towards understanding the way the world works (which may or should, last a life time), and naturally his creations should reflect this quest,

So what do our good people here think? And what suggestions do they have for both overt and covert atheist films? If you have seen The Ledge, what did you like or dislike about it?

The trailer for The Ledge is below (I  know John has linked it before):


starstattoo said...

It's difficult for a film to be considered atheist unless the film is at least partly about atheism as a topic or has openly atheist people who encounter situations related to their atheism. Many films are nonreligious, and most aren't Christian, but only a minority deal only with natural phenomena and exclude fate, luck, karma, destiny, or other supernatural or paranormal themes.

Most mainstream films & tv take a squishy, nonobjectionable middle road in which most characters believe in something vague. Explicitly Christian characters are a minority, and pro-Christian messages are almost as rare as pro-atheist messages, but most movies - even those whose characters aren't sure what they believe - have a pro-something-vaguely-Unitarianish worldview, often implying that life events are guided or planned in some way or that we are all spiritually connected.

Interestingly, some types of movies & tv try to have it both ways. Many vampire stories will be full of crosses & curses & holy water, but modern vampire-hunters aren't usually religious. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" had tons of talk about Hell, demons, various deities, crosses, etc., but Buffy avoided Christianity & Jesus completely. Other horror films will mock Catholicism or Evangelical Protestantism even as their vampires, witches, or demons are fought using Christian objects or rituals.

One notable film that includes a surprising level of explicit atheism is the Ryan Gosling/ George Clooney movie "Ides of March". George Clooney's character, a presidential candidate, openly discusses his nonreligious stance in a political debate. It's surprising to hear a candidate, even a fictional one, be brave enough to say "I'm not a Christian". He says "I'm not an atheist" also, weaving it all into a separation-of-church-and-state point, but it is clear that he is publicly nonreligious.

The moral behavior of all the film's characters, religious & nonreligious, isn't very positive, but it's still a nuanced film.