Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

At the Gate

One of my favorite movies of all time is King of Hearts, a 1960s film starring Alan Bates and a young Genevieve Bujold. The story takes place in a French village during WWI. The inhabitants flee the town, leaving behind the inmates of an asylum with the gate open. They filter out into the empty town and take on the roles of normal life, full of joie de vive, such that a Scottish soldier (Bates) sent into the town is unaware of the situation, with hilarious and profound results. 

This brief description does no justice to this gem of a movie, but sets the stage for the final scene. After opposing armies meet and kill each other off in the town square, the inmates realize that the villagers will be returning. They quietly abandon their adventure and return to the asylum. 

Finally understanding what has happened, Bates reluctantly rejoins his unit and prepares to move out. But at the very end, he returns and walks towards the asylum, shedding his uniform along the way, until he stands before the gate, stark naked, asking to be admitted. 

The people we find most appealing in the movie are those who have been judged insane – the ones who seem to appreciate life, reveling in the present moment, with open hearts and flashes of deep wisdom. When confronted by the dismal reality of the life he had never up to that moment questioned, Bates, along with the viewer, is led to consider that the inmates of the asylum might understand more about the precious nature of life than those who so thoughtlessly cast it aside. 

His walk towards the gate, to me, represents the process of awakening. It requires utter surrender, leaving behind everything we use to clothe ourselves – our beliefs, our judgments, our shame, our stories, our hopes, our fears. We must be willing to let it all go, layer by layer, like the uniform left strewn behind him. 

Until we stand at the door naked, with nothing to offer except ourselves, asking to come in. And we will be welcomed, because we are standing at the gate of home. And as the saying goes, home is where they have to let you in.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. ~Matthew 7:7

10 thoughts on “At the Gate”

  1. "The people we find most appealing in the movie are those who have been judged insane – the ones who seem to appreciate life, reveling in the present moment, with open hearts and flashes of deep wisdom. "

    And I'm beginning to think they are the only ones left worth appreciating in this world. Sigh, sorry, just has been one of those "extra grace required" days.

  2. I can't believe I've never seen this movie, Galen. I'll definitely have to put it on my "to watch" list.
    I am reminded that we come into this world with nothing, and with nothing we will leave it. No greater image of this than our raw and unapologetic nakedness. Maybe those deemed insane are the sane ones after all.
    Blessings to you!

  3. I haven't seen this movie but it does sound intriguing. I can tell there is a layered message there. It's true we can't take anything with us when we leave this world and the only thing we have to give is ourself back into God's care. There is a longer thought on giving our will to Heavenly Father but that's for another day.
    I love the scripture in Matthew.
    Warm thoughts, blessings and hugs for you dear friend!

  4. I like your observation that when we leave this world, we only have ourselves to give back. I look forward to hearing more about that "longer thought" LeAnn. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Great post, Galen. I'll have to add this to my list of films to watch, such symbolism going on – and i love watching Alan Bates, he always seems to be in highly interesting plots!

  6. I think you'll like it, Lynne. You can watch it in the original French with subtitles or dubbed in English. Alan Bates is wonderful. They all are, actually. And I believe that this might have been Genevieve Bujold's first movie.

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