I just finished watching The Sunset Limited, a powerful HBO TV movie. Two men, one a Bible-believing ex-con played by Samuel L. Jackson and the other a professor who expounds existentialist views, played by Tommy Lee Jones, discuss life and death, meaning, experience, suffering, destiny, theology and philosophy. Tommy Lee Jones’ character states, “The dialectic of the homily always presupposes a ground of evil.” There is a dialectic in operation here as two opposite viewpoints clash and remix.
The movie reminded me of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, “No Exit.” The door takes on a symbolic significance at the end that put me in mind of Sartre’s work. Both are one-act stagings (apart from the brief initial scene outside the locked doors of the apartment in this movie) with a small cast. Both examine the lives, memories and sins of the participants. In “No Exit”, they await a torturer who doesn’t arrive, and come to realize they are each others’ torturers. At the end of The Sunset Limited, the man Samuel L. Jackson sought to comfort has become his torturer.
Highly recommended if you enjoy the exchange of ideas in a well-crafted, well-acted movie.