There are a growing number of apocalyptic movies that threaten the imminent end of the world. Most end with the heroes averting the tragedy entirely or limiting the damage to New York or Los Angeles. Knowing, with Nicolas Cage as Dr. John Koestler, lets the fire fall and it consumes the whole earth. The final scene is apocalyptic in a mythic kind of a way, but it is also agonizingly biblical.
St. Peter, who may or may not have been the first Pope, but who certainly knew what Jesus said, and what He wanted His followers to know, describes the end of time (the Day of the Lord) as a final conflagration. He writes: “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (II Pet. 3:10)–thunderous waves of fire–this is precisely how the end comes to Dr. Koestler, and his family.
This mythic theme is embedded in our psyche, but it is recurring in movies, at least, with alarming repetitiveness. It is hard-wired into us that this story we are in has a definite conclusion. As all epics must, there comes a final battle and a final resolution. There is a point to all the drama, the conflict, the struggle and the heart-ache. Knowing left me feeling that there is a growing suspicion that the book we have all been reading is about to reach its conclusion.
While the movie has its flaws, most notably the character of Dr. Koestler who is more withdrawn and un-emotive than Mel Gibson in Signs, there was a moment that I loved. I love it when writers take the supernatural seriously, when it clear that it is more than a mere artistic or metaphorical foil. I love it because I am a Christian, which means I take the supernatural really serious.
I believe that the biblical cosmology is the correct cosmology: there is man on earth and there is God in heaven and there are angels and demons all around. Not that I am obsessed with their existence, I just happen to believe that they are real and they can and do pierce through the membrane of our material world more frequently than we realize. Which means, I also believe strongly in the existence of the third person of the Trinity. Which means that I believe He gives specific “gifts” to man, one of them being the gift of prophesy. This is what Dr. Koestler also comes to realize as the end draws inexorably near.
That is really the point of the movie. The end is coming. The end is being prophesied by a document covered with numbers. But it is being mitigated by creatures from another world who come to protect and to transport selected humans to repopulate a new world. So, the end is really not oblivion but a new beginning. This is what the Bible says as well. The fire is cleansing. It is refining. It removes what must be removed so that the new (and the never ending story) can begin. In the words of St. Peter: “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (II Pet. 3:13).
Before the fire falls Dr. Koestler, makes his peace with his estranged father, which points us toward a more significant and eternal resolution: making peace with our Heavenly Father, whom we’ve also closed our hearts against. The final scene closes with innocent children running in luscious fields of tall grain. It leaves unspoken the question that St. Peter inserts into the middle of his apocalyptic vision: Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought we to be?” Unlike Knowing, Peter does more than imply, he gives us a clear answer: “live holy and godly lives, as you look forward to the coming of the Lord” (II Pet. 3:11).
I give it 3 1/2 carrots.