Archives For Brendan Gleeson

This week has left me a bit unsettled in terms of movies. The Oscars came and went I just sighed, “oh well.”

I am usually pretty spot on with movie award nominations (and winners) but this year has been all over the place with no single film standing out for the masses.

As there are so many good books that get overlooked, there are also so many good movies who suffer the same anonymity, especially in the flare of blockbusters.

One that sticks out is the 2014 filmcalvary-8Calvary, starring Brendan Gleeson (remember Hamish from Braveheart?), Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids), and Kelly Reilly (Flight). It is an Irish-made film by the talented director, John Michael McDonagh. I watched it in theater last year and then again this past week at home. I have always had an affinity toward Irish films like The Commitments, Waking Ned Devine, Michael Connolly, In the Name of the Father, Bloody Sunday, and Once. There is something about the unique dry humor in Irish films as well as their ability to hit some of the deepest emotional themes in life through storytelling.

Calvary may just be one of the finest films that has ever moved me. My film aficionado friend Erik Parks featured Calvary as the top movie of 2014, even beating out some of the Oscar winners this year. I agree with him.

 

The Irish sure know how to tell a story, especially a familiar story.

Erik shared a great overview of the movie from his blog:

The opening of this film shows a good priest in confession as he listens to a mystery man recount his years of sexual abuse by a bad priest. He then tells the good priest that as an act of revenge, he plans on killing him in a week. Crazy setup but a fantastic film that shows a faithful man of God dealing with psychological torture as he continues to love and care for the wicked people of his town. Mercy, love, forgiveness and ultimately Christ-likeness are the overarching themes in this dark, but extraordinary little Irish film. (Rated R for sexual references, language, brief strong violence and some drug use.)

calvary-butcherI’m not sure why people are so afraid of the Gospel. When you read about Jesus, this is what we get. It’s very R-rated. It’s bloody. It’s violent. It’s poignant and challenging. As you read in the Bible within the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you get the nitty-gritty of Jesus’ life and death and in Calvary the movie, it follows well. That is why Calvary succeeds because it doesn’t hold back from real life.

Calvary may be the best movie representation of the Gospel I’ve ever seen.

It is rich with symbolism as well as lines to make you contemplate and pray over.

Father James Lavelle: “God is great and the limits of his mercy have not been set.”

——-

Father James Lavelle: I think there’s too much talk about sins to be honest not enough talk about virtues.

Fiona Lavelle: What would be your number one?

Father James Lavelle: I think forgiveness has been highly underrated.

——-

Father James Lavelle: He was a good man, your husband? (to a lady who just lost her husband)

Teresa: Yes. He was a good man. We had a very good life together. We loved each other very much. And now… he has gone. And that is not unfair. That is just what happened. But many people don’t live good lives. They don’t feel love. That is why it’s unfair. I feel sorry for them.

calvary3Your life will be changed after watching it. My encouragement is to go see for yourself and let me know what you think.

 

 

Recently, I watched the movie Calvary (2014), which was one of the most powerful representations of the Gospel I’ve ever seen on film.

I don’t want to ruin the movie but go see it but see it with caution. Often truth in a movie like Calvary can hit us like a two by four. It is also R-rated and deals with some of the most serious issues in life.

 

LIke I would do with any good film, I shared my enthusiasm with a few people and the first question was typically,

“Well, is it a Christian film?”

My reaction?

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I knew this question was coming and I bury my head in my hands every time someone asks it. It brings up the greater question, “What is ‘Christian’ in all media?”

When you ask if it is a Christian film, what are we talking about?

 

Is it about Jesus, Christians, or the Bible in general?

Is it a movie that people pray on-screen or talk about Jesus? 

Does a person who believes and follows Christ have to write and/or direct it? 

Is it produced by a company or person who believes in Jesus? 

Does a church show it to their congregation? Is it endorsed by a popular pastor? 

Is there an altar call at the end of the movie?

Is it produced by an evangelical? What about a Catholic?

 

Sorry, but I don’t have a specific answer to what constitutes a ‘Christian film’. Only God knows but what I do know is that he created each human being to ultimately honor him and movies are a great way to do it. I believe that the arts, especially in music, books, and movies are a way to showcase God’s great story. The Godfather of movie storytelling, Robert McKee shares,

“A fine work of art – music, dance, painting, story – has the power to silence the chatter in the mind and lift us to another place.”

Christians have a funny way of trying to package things in a pretty box. What if that box isn’t genuine, though?

I am thankful that God gave me a passion for books and movies and how they can have a transformative power to change lives. I feel like I in the majority of movies, I can point out the Christ figure in the film that represents ‘redemption’. Most of my favorite movies are written or directed by people whom I don’t know where they stand in their faith. I am comfortable with that and I’ll explain why.

For example, I know a lot of serious evangelical Christians who love Eric Liddell’s story. They love the movie Chariot’s of Firewhich tells some of Liddell’s story as the famous Scottish runner who in the 1924 Olympics refused to run a heat for his best race because it was on the Sabbath. The movie is widely quoted in sermons, articles, and blogs. What most Christians don’t know is that Liddell was played by Ian Charleson, who was gay and later died tragically from AIDS in 1990. Regardless of where Charleson stood in his faith, does the fact of his sexual orientation make the movie invalid as a ‘Christian’ film? Some Christians would throw the movie into the fire because of this fact.

Along with Chariot’s of Fire, here are a few movies that have had a profound impact on my life yet do not fit a typical mold of Christianity.

I think when you have good writing and good visual storytelling, a film can change a life. Redemption is at the core of good story, after all. 

I am comfortable seeing God in the beauty he presents through a variety of people. Some people may not but I challenge you to give these a chance with an open mind and to pray for God to show you his heart. Then go to scripture and dig deeper. And, as much as I want to celebrate every openly evangelical film, I want people to recognize that each of those films may not be a true representation of the Gospel in all its grit.

We live in a brutal society.

We live in a world where people are being decapitated on broadcast television. Children are being molested. Men and women are raped. Politicians and bankers are cheating the poor. Pornography is more accepted by culture. We can dance around the truth or we can engage with it head on.

Years ago, Michael Card wrote a book and song titled “A Violent Grace”. I believe the chorus captures life best.

So ruthless, He loves us, So reckless His embrace
To show relentless kindness, To a hardened human race
The joy that was before Him
On the Man of Sorrows face
And by His blood He bought a violent grace

I think this is why movies like The Passion of the Christ provoked so many people because it felt closer to reality of what Christ went through than previous movies portraying his sacrifice.

Scripture even backs it up in Isaiah 53:6 NIV

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus’ death and sacrifice was brutal.

In order to follow Christ, we must engage with the fact that Christ died violently for us. There is no sugar coating it.

My encouragement is to pray for discernment when it comes to any information you take in any movie, book, or piece of music. Just because I am moved by the movies above, it doesn’t mean I agree with everything in them; the heart of the story is what I am after. N.T. Wright shares good caution from his book Simply Christian,

“You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship.”

 

Here are some questions I ask myself and points I consider when I watch a film.

  1. Does it showcase ‘redemption’ well?

  2. Does it glorify sin? 

  3. What is the motivation of the film maker? 

  4. Does Scripture back up the heart of the story?

  5. Pray and ask God for discernment to show His way through these stories.

 

In the meantime, I challenge you to take risks and go see movies like Calvary. Let me know what you think.

What other movies have you watched that are not in explicitly Christian but have had a profound effect on your life? Why? 

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