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 BILLY ELLIOT 

Theme: The Dance of Life

A Prayer for Mercy

"Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; Look, and see our reproach! 
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our houses to aliens.  
We have become orphans without a father.  Our mothers are like widows.  
We have to pay for our drinking water; our wood comes to us at a price. 
Our pursuers are at our  necks; We are worn out, there is no rest for us. 
 We have submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread. 
 Our fathers sinned and are no more; it is we who have borne their iniquities.  
Slaves rule over us; There is no one to deliver us from their hand.  
We get our bread at the risk of our lives, because of the sword in the wilderness.  
Our skin has become as hot as an oven, because of the burning heat of famine.  
They ravished the women in Zion, the virgins in the cities of Judah.  
Princes were hung by their hands; Elders were not respected.
Young men worked at the grinding mill; and youths stumbled under loads of
wood.  Elders are gone from the gate, young men from their music.  
The joy of our hearts has ceased.  Our dancing has been turned into mourning."
                                                                     Lamentations 5:1-15


Insights: 

Billy Elliot is a very simple film with a simple message.  It is not a big feature film with high profile movie stars and complex computer graphics.  It offers only a stark picture of reality while delivering a message of heart and hope.  It is this simple message of good triumphing over evil; beauty over ugliness that make Billy Elliot a surprisingly "big" movie.

The setting is Durham Coalfield, North East England, 1984.  The miners including Billy's father and brother have gone out on strike.  The family has lost its livelihood, and they have lost their heart. Bill's mother, Jenny, died the previous December; with her went the music, the joy, the laughter, and the dance of life.  All that remains is a dark world, an angry world, and a "fallen world" (Romans 5:12).

The fallen world seeks to rob, kill, and destroy life (Romans 6:23).  Billy has life as symbolized by the dance within him.  The sin filled world he inhabits seeks to replace imagination, desire, and beauty with mindlessness, drudgery, and ugliness.  His father, brother, and grandmother are all examples of this (Psalm 107:10-12).  Every scene in the first half of the film is establishing a contrast between their world and its fallen condition to the life that is surging through Billy.

The Royal Ballet School in London symbolizes another world; a world of beauty, creativity, and light (the Kingdom of Heaven - Psalm 50:2).  The way to this school can be pointed out by Mrs. Wilkinson, the ballet instructor (notice how light filters in when she is teaching Billy), but she cannot go there for she too is lost in her own bitterness and resentment.

The movie depicts a battle for the soul of Billy.  The world wants to shape him and conform him to its image (Romans12:1-2)  It tempts him through Michael and Debbie.  It beats him and curses him through Tony, his brother.  It tries to kill his desire and dreams through his father; and all the while, he keeps dancing!!

What keeps Billy dancing?  What keeps him trying?  What keeps him loving?  It is the love of his mother.  Before she died she wrote a letter to Billy instructing him to open the letter when he became 18. Unable to wait, the eleven-year-old Billy has opened the letter and memorized it.  The letter is a mother's prayer for her son.  She writes, "...But please know that I was always with you through everything.  I always will be.  I'm proud to have known you, and I'm proud you were mine.  Always be yourself.  I'll love you forever. Mum."

The climax of the film comes on Christmas.  The family is out of coal; and in order to keep the family warm, Billy's father is forced to chop his wife's piano up for firewood.  As the angry father destroys the piano, Billy simply asks, "Do you think she would mind?"   To which his father replies, "Shut up Billy, she's dead!" (He has no sense of eternal life.)  The camera then focuses on the burning piano pieces in the fireplace; they are laid in the shape of the cross.  Sitting next to the fire, the father's heart finally is broken (Psalm 34:18).  His sorrows overwhelm him, and he bows at the foot of the cross.  There he finds healing, and there he is changed (Isaiah 53:4-6).

Billy's father, Jackie, makes the sacrifice to get Billy to the Royal Ballet School.  He apologizes to the ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson.  He humbles himself and breaks the picket line, which brings about a cathartic moment with his oldest son.  He sells his wife's jewelry in order to get enough money to take Billy to London (Psalm 51:17).  Billy receives his admittance to the Royal Ballet School the same day the strike is called off.  The new life for Billy brings new life to the entire family.  The movie ends with an adult Billy performing before an audience that includes his father and his brother.  They have journeyed from Durham Coalfield; they have left the mines; they have come to experience the dance of life (Psalm 30:11-12).

A Prayer for Mercy:  

Lamentations 5: 1-22

Billy Elliot

Verse 2: Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our houses to aliens.

      Jewelry pawned

Verse 3: We are orphans without a father.
Our mothers are like widows.

      Children alone, unprotected
      The piano teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson

Verse 4: We have to pay for our drinking water; our wood comes to us at a price.

      Piano burned

Verse 5: Our pursuers are at our necks; We are worn out, there is no rest for us..

      Police after strikers

Verse 6: We have submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread.

      Union giving in

Verse 7: Our fathers sinned, and are no more. It is we who have borne their iniquities.

      Tony becoming like his father

Verse 8:  Slaves rule over us; There is no one to deliver us from their hand.

      Union members

Verse 9: We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the wilderness.

      Strike breakers

Verse 10: Our skin has become as hot as an oven, because of the burning heat of famine.

      Anger

Verse 11:  They ravished the women in Zion, the virgins in the city of Judah.       Jenny Elliot

Verse 12:  Princes were hung by their hands; Elders were not respected.

      No men to respect
      Grandmother belittled

Verse 13:  Young men worked at the grinding mill; and youths stumbled under loads of wood.

      Young men in mines
      Billy taking care of his grandmother

Verse 14:  Elders are gone from the gate; young men from their music.

      No male authorities 
      All sitting in the basement      

Verse 15: The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been  turned into mourning.

      Durham Coalfield

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, 
and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; 
You have kept me alive that I would not go down to the pit. 
Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. 
For His anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.
Now as for me I said in my prosperity, " I will never be moved."
O Lord, by your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong; 
You hid Your face, I was dismayed.
To You, O Lord, I called, and to the Lord I made supplication:
"What profit is there in my blood if I go down to the pit? 
Will the dust praise You?  Will it declare Your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my Helper."
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; 
You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, 
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
                                                                                   Psalm 30

                                                            

Scripture:  Lamentations 5:1-15Psalm 30

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