18 April 2009

The Deification of Spices, Or, Whatever Happened to Dylan McDermott?

Heidi and I watched The Mistress of Spices the other day, and I have to admit, I was disappointed. The plot was just, well, lame. Tilo (Aishwarya Rai) is a "mistress of spices," which means that as a young girl, she was trained (in addition to having the ability to see the near future) to know all spices, their uses, and to be able to communicate with the spices. She is not allowed to touch other people, leave her shop, or ever to use the spices for herself.

She lives in Oakland, where she lives at and manages her spice shop, Spice Bazaar. One day, a wealthy architect, Doug (Dylan McDermott) notices Tilo, and (surprise!) love at first sight.
Some time later, he has a motorcycle accident in front of the Spice Bazaar, which necessitates Tilo binding his wounds with a special healing spice mixture. She falls in love with him, too, beginning a time of disobedience to the spices. All her spices have a contrary effect on her customers, so she must repent and re-dedicate her life and service to the spices.

The ultimate conflice arises when Tilo must decide between being faithful to the spices or faithful to her heart in allowing a relationship with Doug.

SPOILER ALERT: Here's how it ends: Tilo chooses Doug, which nearly gets her good friend, Haroun (Nitin Ganatra, one of my favorite Indian actors) killed. She and Doug touch, and she leaves the shop to see San Francisco. Her spices start to die, and in an earthquake, she nearly dies until it is revealed (by the spirit of her spice guru) that she has proven faithful to the spices, so she can be with Doug AND have her successful spice shop.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that there would be eastern mysticism in a movie about a psychic girl trained to communicate with peppers and powders and seeds. I just thought that the whole concept of the spices having a god-like status was strange and a little ridiculous. Throughout the movie, Tilo has a conversation with the spices (presumably as unspoken thoughts) in which she apologizes to them, begs them for mercy, and expresses her devotion to them.

But there is some truth for the Christian to latch onto. Disobedience can lead to unintended consequences (though not in a karmic way as in the movie) such as stained relationships and personal pain. Sinning against the sovereign requires atonement (though, again, the sovereign is not the created, but the Uncreated Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). And though one may occasionally disobey (even in a major way), what matters most is faithfulness to God and getting up after you fall down.

Anyway, it was okay.


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