The White Lily Blog

Loveless is About Abortion, and More


Andrei Zvyagintsev’s new film Loveless is talking to the world-wide pro-life movement. In fact, it is screaming: support for life must be broader than current initiatives! Pro-life political demands are limited to a call for an end to legal abortion and sometimes, more faintly, for ‘support’ of women who choose not to kill their unborn infants. Loveless argues that ending abortion only results, all other things being equal, in the at least equally painful victimization of those infants who survive abortion and make it to birth.

The plot reveals it. Alyosha, the twelve-year old child in the film, overhears a vicious argument between his divorcing parents revealing not the sentimental cliche, fighting over who gets him, but that neither want him in their new lives with their new lovers.

He runs away. We learn three times, subsequently, marking a central theme, that his mother did not abort him, not because she wanted him, no, but because she was afraid of the physical dangers of abortion. And rightly so, abortion is risky, a fact often exploited outside abortion centers by pro-life volunteers armed with the latest statistics and law suits against this or that local center for perforating this or that female body part during the ‘procedure.’ Alyosha’s mother instead married his father, her first lover, and had the child.

She would have been considered a ‘save’ by pro-life volunteers. Her child’s life was spared, he survived, only to overhear how little he is loved, and to scream one hideously long silent scream in the corner where he is hiding and listening and weeping in their unhappy house. It is an unforgettable image among so many in this brutal film.

And his parents married, another happy ending for pro-life supporters.

But, in a world defining love by carnal pleasure, divorce is just a few clickable forms away, plus selling the house, of course, mere details. Getting rid of the kid is almost as easily handled by the use of the resources of the State, orphanage or hospital or boarding school. But we see the teacher in this film, interviewed by the police, afterwards wrapping up her day in her deserted classroom, carelessly wiping the board and calmly putting away her things, unmoved by the implications of the interview, leaving with a colleague, perhaps anticipating dinner and the pleasures of the evening. We see also a hospital housing other run-aways, the shadowy hallway, the drugged child alone in the empty room at the end of the corridor.

Reviewers of Loveless have of course called this an exposure of jaded Russian institutions and heartless Russian teachers and nurses. Americans who really try to love their little clients know better. It is the norm. Care workers who survive the system learn to distance themselves from children’s pain. They go on strike for their salaries and their summers and their pensions, they do not go on strike for better conditions for their students and patients. This is Russia, but this is also America, this is the UK and France and Italy and Canada and Saudi Arabia and the whole world, as divorce destroys our communities one by one. But pro-life forces do not take it on. It is too big to fight, all at once. One thing at a time, we console ourselves.

But the Church will save them! We cling to that. And what does the film say of the Church? For it is there, and in a bigger way than in America. The company, for example, that Alyosha’s father works for is a ‘Christian’ one (one review calls it Catholic, but it would be Russian Orthodox) and and imposes moral behavior on its employees. If they want to keep their jobs, they may not divorce (among other things). Surely that will help make a better world for the children of its employees!

But this Church–like our own, the Church we inherited from Vatican II and its craven endorsement of the separation of Church and State–cannot change the culture in which it lives and breathes. It is against public policy to even try. It can only hope to set up an alternative, and Loveless shows how profoundly that fails. We see what employees of this Christian company are doing on their computer screens when management is not looking. We overhear how employees fool management’s moral standards–difficult, but not impossible, to accomplish. It is only a matter of the right accessories at the holiday party, the fake wife and children. They might even be the real wife and the real children, but the cell phone hook up culture makes the girlfriend just a text away. There is no running, no hiding, from the secular godless State. Nor is Andrei Zvyagintsev wrong. The Benedict Option is a farce.

We save some children outside abortion centers. Our media outlets save others, we have several very fine media organizations. We may actually be able to reverse Roe v Wade in our lifetimes and save almost all of them from being murdered in the womb. Vice-president Pence says it’s possible, and falling birth rates and resulting falling profits are on our side. There are many completely secular corporations that now do not support abortion, although you will have difficulty finding them on the web because pro-life media protects them from pro-abortion push-back. But they are there–Xerox, Coka-Cola, Ford–because they see what abortion does to labor costs, and as we fight cheap immigrant labor, companies who profit from it turn to other solutions. We pro-lifers could win on that issue, Pence is not wrong. But what we win is what Loveless exposes.
We have not even begun to consider what we must do to save the unborn from contemporary life, from a culture that has become unspeakably toxic. Loveless rubs our nose in it. The film isn’t about Russia, not only about Russia. It’s about Mainstreet USA and it is our children screaming. And we are just not ready to confront what we must do next, including within our own Church.

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