First Reformed (2017*)
Written and directed by Paul Schrader
Produced by Jack Binder, Greg Clark, Victoria Hill, Gary Hamilton, Deepak Sikka, Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Frank Murray
Music by Brian Williams (Lustmord)
Cinematography by Alexander Dynan
Edited by Benjamin Rodriguez Jr.
Distributed by A24
Bow Tie Cinemas Harbour 9, Annapolis, MD (1:53)
*released on the festival circuit in 2017; in wide release May 2018
Paul Schrader’s First Reformed opens with a long shot of a modest church, one we sense has been painted white for generation after generation, a building flanked by patches of snow amidst a darkened earthy landscape. The camera lingers a few moments as each shot draws us nearer to the church’s doors while Brian Williams’s unobtrusive score carries the weight of looming tension. If we didn’t know better, we might think we’re being prepared for a horror movie. Perhaps we are.
Directed and written by John Michael McDonagh
Produced by Chris Clark, Flora Fernandez-Marengo, James Flynn, and others
Cinematography by Larry Smith
Edited by Chris Gill
Music by Patrick Cassidy
Fox Searchlight Pictures
20th Century Fox DVD – library
(This film was recommended to me by my friend Ann G.)
Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) hears many confessions in his remote Irish seacoast village. One Sunday he hears the confession of a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest who has long since died. The man informs Father James that he’s taking his revenge out on him, that he will, in fact, assassinate the priest in exactly one week, although he knows that Father James is innocent, a “good priest.” The man even tells Father James when and where this killing will occur so that he can set his house in order.
I’ve spoken before about my thoughts on the theology of film noir, how as a Christian I look on noir as cinema’s greatest, most accurate, and most biblical expression of fallen humanity. That state and how it plays out in our lives is best expressed in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Film noir is simply Ecclesiastes being played out through movies, although film noir usually stops at Ecclesiastes Chapter 11, not moving forward to Chapter 12, the book’s final chapter. After watching 30 film noir movies last month in light of a Christian worldview, I thought about several things:
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post called “Why I Love Film Noir,” focusing on some of the spiritual elements of why I adore noir. On my “About” page, I talk about how I often examine films and graphic novels from a Christian viewpoint. Today, Easter Sunday, I want to delve a bit deeper into this holiday, Christianity, and film noir, topics that may seem unrelated, but contain more connections than you might think.