Books & Movies with Great Thematic Imagery

One of my favorite people, Alexandra Sokoloff, is once again doing a NaNoWriMo prep series on her blog, and the assignment for today is to come up with a theme. Theme is tricky, and I often don’t come up with my theme until after the first draft is done. (And then a do an edit to beef up the thematic elements in the draft, once I’ve got it figured out.) But there’s no harm in trying something new, so I’m wondering if maybe I can come up with my theme before I start my novel this year… maybe.

So assignment number 1? Come up with 10 books & movies that have really great thematic imagery (plot, dialogue, visuals, locations). I don’t have enough time to come up with 10, so I’ll do 5 for now. Here’s my list:

1. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

If you haven’t read this book, go, do it now. The imagery was one of my favorite parts. It’s a multi-layered book, but one layer was definitely a Jesus allegory, and the author did such a great job of taking Midwestern actual locations and making them analagous with hell or heaven or purgatory, even maybe with Jerusalem, or Golgatha. Brilliantly done!

2. Runaway Bride

I’m putting this one on the list mostly because I was already thinking about it today, but I think it does some great things with imagery. The heroine is a serial leaver of grooms at the altar, and when it comes down to it, it’s because she is kind of codependent, and keeps changing herself for the men she meets, even though, deep down, this scares her and she knows it’s wrong. So the movie is a process of her finding herself. Eggs are the symbol for this. The big fancy New York reporter (who is also the hero) asks each of her exes how she likes her eggs, and each ex answers, “Oh, she likes them just like I like my eggs.” Only all the exes like different eggs. There’s a pivotal scene where she has about 20 plates of different kinds of eggs in front of her and she’s tasting all of them, trying to figure out which ones she likes– trying to figure out who she really is, which is required for her happy ending.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark

This one is on about every list I do, I know, but it’s so good. One of the big themes in this movie is the good and evil we have within ourselves. Belloq says to Indiana Jones, “I am a shadowy reflection of you,” and there are a whole lot of parallel scenes of Belloq and Indiana Jones, juxtaposed to show how similar they really are– even though they’re villain and hero. They even dress similarly.

4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

One of the main themes in the book is alternate points of view: Hindus, Muslims, Christians, or what constitutes truth. In the end, truth is as subjective as the person telling it. The awesome imagery comes way at the end of the book, but the payoff is magnificent.

5. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

This romance novel had a lot to do with religion, and, I think, even more to do with the choice between your background and family and the man you love. I think that theme strikes home with a lot of people, especially women, because it’s something a lot of us have had to deal with: Marry the man your family wants you to marry, or marry the man you love. Even in modern times, it’s a powerful question. I liked the symbolism. There were several great symbolic moments, the “flowers from the storm” scene being one. I love it when authors, particularly romance authors, do that sort of thing. It means they trust me (the reader) enough to include it, and not spell everything out. Good stuff.

Assignment number 2 for the day is to come up with some personal themes. I’m going to have to think a bit more on that one, but I’ll get back to you.

Do you have some books or movies with thematic imagery you love? Share please!