Warning! Massive spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and don’t like ruined surprises, skip this review!
Up until now, I’ve found the whole Twilight saga a little too dominated by angst. But I actually found the latest one to have some fascinating themes, in particular related to Jesus’ atonement. This installment finally sees the handsome vampire, Edward, marry his girlfriend, Bella. For the first half-hour or so, it is an agonisingly tedious wedding, complete with unsatisfied “third-wheel” and werewolf, Jacob, grumbling away. Then the couple go on their romantic honeymoon. Upto this point, it’s frankly pretty dull.
All that changes.
Astonishingly, Bella becomes pregnant to a vampire-human hybrid. Edward immediately begins to discuss how they “can get it out of you”. Edward’s concerns are quite understandable. When an old woman at their resort sees Bella is pregnant, she simply says, “morte” (“death”). Simply put, Bella must choose between the life of her child, and her own.
At that point, the movie became an abortion debate. While the movie is obviously very “pro-life”, focussing on that might mean the deeper theological symbolism going on here gets missed.
The old woman’s prophesy begins to come true. Before long, Bella grows seriously ill, to the point where she becomes horrifically emaciated – the foetus is literally sucking Bella’s own flesh and blood away. In fact, Edward’s family, who includes a vampire-doctor, constantly tell Bella that the baby is killing her.
But despite the almost-certainty of death, Bella refuses to abort the child. This is not because the child has given her anything, or done anything for her. Indeed, all it seems to do is hurt her. Yet Bella’s unconditional love for her child is enough for her to insist on going through this physical agony.
This culminates in Bella going into labor. The vampire-doctor has been forced away because of other circumstances, so Edward and Jacob must perform a gruesome caesarean to get the child out. Unsurprisingly, almost immediately after she sees her baby daughter, Bella dies. And despite Edward’s desperate attempts to turn Bella now into a vampire, so she can gain vampiric super-powers of recovery, she seems irrevocably dead. It is a poignant story of self-sacrifice and love.
The links between this story and that of Jesus Christ should be obvious. Like Bella, God had no reason whatsoever for saving us from death. Indeed, while Bella’s child was unintentionally hurting her simply as part of its own gestation, we wilfully ignore, reject or try to hurt God. Yet Jesus, the second Person of the Triune God, focusses on our need for life rather than the cost to Himself. He endures similar horrors to Bella’s gestation through His earthly life – political and economic oppression, for example. Ultimately, he dies a grotesque death, simply because of His unconditional, unquenchable love for us.
And of course, Bella somehow comes back to life again, to become a vampire. Jesus came back to life again, His self-sacrifice vindicated in His resurrection through the power of God the Father.
The other fascinating thing about the story is how influential Bella’s loving self-sacrifice is. By supporting her pregnancy, Edward’s vampiric family are considered to have broken a truce with the local werewolves (for reasons too complicated to go into here!). All they would need to do to save themselves a nasty war, is simply hand over Bella and the child to be killed in their place. Yet they are willing to sacrifice their own lives for a woman and child, one of which will most likely die anyway. Even Jacob overcomes his anger at Bella’s rejecting him, sacrificing his own status in the werewolf community in order to save first Bella, and then the newborn child. Similarly, Jesus’ self-sacrifice has been an infectious force throughout history, calling others to sacrifice everything, even their very lives, for those around them.
This has obvious ramifications for those women who find themselves in a similar situation to Bella, carrying a child who ultimately will destroy them, and for those who have lost loved ones in the process of childbirth. I certainly am not here making blanket judgement-calls on what should be done in such situations (these are complicated issues). But I am saying that, recognising that such an event is an example of Christ-like self-sacrifice and love, may give a degree of dignity and meaning in the midst of such a tragedy.