Jul 30, 2011

Religious experience; cinematic experience

Tree of Life got me thinking -- there's a very rare, specific sort of film that's about what it's like to be religious. Not just religious sub-themes or motifs, or one character like an angry preacher or judgemental neighbor lady, or there's a metaphor in the film that's religious or like that. But actually a good depiction of the experience.

My list of 5, the best movies I know about the experience of faith and the struggle of same:

1) Tree of Life (Episcopal)
About the emergence of the sense of guilt and shame in a boy. Also, the beginning of the universe, the end, theodicy, questions to an eternal void, wanting to kill your father, aching with love for your mother, hurting your brother, the choice between nature and grace and saying paraphrases of scripture in a whisper to the world.

2) The Apostle (Pentecostal)
Best line: "I always call you Jesus, you always call me Sonny." Seriously, the only film I can think of that focuses so much on a "personal relationship with Jesus" (or at all), and one of the more extreme variety, yet still accurately and sympathetically portrayed. Sure it's crazy when someone talks to God all the time, but not crazy like a killer, but more often like a widower talking to his wife who's gone. And, sometimes, like a firce argument with the unseen.

3) Des Hommes et Des Dieux (Of Gods and Men) (Catholic)
In a perfect world, anyone who ever saw "Passion of the Christ" would have to watch this as a counter point. Same story -- intense look at the passion of the body of Christ right before brutal death -- but totally different sense, and totally different idea of what God is like in the world. Also -- great depictions of communal prayer, and communion, and great depiction of the sense of monastic time.

4) Andre Rublev (Russian Orthodox)
Even if it weren't a classic, brilliant movie, I just totally love the idea of an icon painter who just wants -- just once! -- to paint a fresco of grace and salvation and mercy, but can only get assignments to paint punishments and hell.

5) Night of the Hunter (Methodist)
For anyone who's ever been abused by a religious authority, who's ever been freaked out by how manipulative a supposed holy person can be, anyone who's ever found church to be creepy as hell. For anyone who's ever been hurt and on the run from religion and religious people, this is the film. Also, never has one movie changed the experience of one song so much. So, don't watch if you really love "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

Obviously the experiences of spirituality and faith are wide and diverse, & there are a lot of films. Your list of 5 of what faith is like?