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Moments of grace in 'The Heist'

Watching The Heist on SBS recently made me think of the Lord’s Prayer: the “lead us not into temptation” bit. 

It was a chilling exploration of how to break down people’s resistance to dishonesty and even violence. It was calculated, artful and frighteningly effective. 

Though the documentary was late to our screens – it was timelessly relevant – it shows ordinarily “good” people carefully – some might say fiendishly – manipulated and groomed, gradually coming to decisions that they would steal, that they would (at least) threaten violence.

Derren Brown is a famous illusionist, hypnotist and magician whose programs go beyond rabbits and hats. He makes us wonder about reality and illusion and the role that these play in our way of life. In The Heist he created a fake seminar for middle-management business people who wanted to enhance their career achievements and personal confidence. The real purpose was to see if he could break down their value systems enough to get them to commit what they thought was an armed robbery.

Little moments of grace were there: the gateway transgression (to shoplift some lollies from a nearby newsagent) was challenged by a man who said that he knew his teenaged daughter would see it and that he could never justify stealing anything to her. I guess you could say that he was saved by the power of love. And we all know the source of that, whether we know God or not.

– Juliette Hughes is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


The Heist (Juliette Hughes / Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting)

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