Movies for an Intense Lent

*updated March 22, 2017* Lent is a long season. And to help me get in the mood of reflecting deeply on my faith, and contemplating deeply about Jesus Christ’s Passion, I have five movies I can turn to (or check my list of music for an intense Lent). But be warned. These films are intense and will not slip from your memory any time soon. The struggles, challenges, drama and suspense lingers… lingers…

SisterLuke——First up: The Nun’s Story, starring none other than the exquisite and stunning Audrey Hepburn as Sister Luke. In this film, we see a young and beautiful woman discern the religious life, but all the while, we see something not quite right. Did she enter for love of Jesus? For love of the Church? Or was the sisterhood merely a tool for her? When I first saw this film, I could not believe what I was seeing. As an Audrey Hepburn fan, as someone who was open to discerning the priesthood, and as a fan of film, this movie was a major treat and surprise. Click here for the whole film (while the link remains active).

——Second: The Passion of Joan of Arc. This is a silent film with a haunting score, a haunted past, and a haunting recovery. The real life struggle to get this movie on screen is already harrowing enough to make one think the devil tried to keep this where the sun don’t shine, but today, it is considered one of the top ten films ever. Don’t let its age, its novelty and its daring discourage you from viewing this movie. Search for it at your library, or online. There are at least three versions now. I only recommend the one accompanied by Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light score (click link to listen!).PassionOfJoan

——Third: Noah. A movie misunderstood by many to be Christian, but it’s actually a Jewish film that stretches the story of the Great Flood in ways that kept me at the edge of my seat. I was stunned to see how riveting the story was, how terrifying such a flood must have been. And since I wrote extensively on this film already, please click here for my review and for the thoughts of others more learned than I. 

——Fourth: The Flowers of War. Though the movie is about the 1937 December invasion and Rape of Nanking by the Japanese army, its portrayal of utter human suffering and redemption is perfect for Lent. The movie stars Batman: aka, Christian Bale, and is directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony). In this epic, Bale finds himself having to play the role of a Catholic priest to protect 12 abandoned school girls trapped and stored in the Cathedral by the Japanese for future use. This film is so intense that I cannot recommend it for family viewing whatsoever. Be advised.

——Fifth: The Prince of Egypt. The origins of Passover are essential to grasping the weight of the Paschal Mystery. Though seen as a children’s film, this movie is definitely for adults, too. Do not miss this [musical] depiction of the Exodus story. Although there are certain creative licenses taken that deviate from the Scriptural telling, the film is a great expression of the desperation of the Hebrews and the overwhelming glory of God’s presence and power. Need more convincing? Have a watch of one of the best scenes: THE PLAGUES

——Finally: The Passion of the Christ. I save this one for Good Friday, and for good reason. And unlike many, I don’t shed a tear at all… until Mary meets her Son on the road to Calvary. I love Jesus. I believe He is God. And God can take care of Himself. But when Mary appears, her broken heart cuts me down. Gets me every time…

——BONUS: this film The Road is also very intense and not to be viewed lightly by families and children. The story is a man trying to care for his son in a post-apocalyptic world that is two-thirds the way to hell. The sacrifices, struggles and sheer terror of what this world is reminds me of what sin did to us, and what sin still does to us when we let it reign. Give this a watch if that sounds like something that will help you stop taking sin lightly, and stop taking life for granted.

——AND A DOCUMENTARY: History Channel produced this detailed and fair research on the mysterious Shroud of Turin (the most studied human artifact, ever). This cloth is believed by many, scientists and faithful alike, to be the original burial linen of Jesus Christ. It is also believed to have been physically affected by the Lord’s  resurrection, affected in a way that science has been unable to explain, to date. Give The Real Face of Jesus a watch (but beware of the heretical and nonsense gnostic material inserted awkwardly (and unnecessarily) in the middle of the documentary). More documentaries researching and studying the Shroud here.

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Exodus is Excusable

Exodus

—SPOILER ALERT—

And by Exodus I mean the film by Ridley Scott (starring Christian Bale as Moses), not the inspired history account of divine intervention by YHWH.

So I was very eager to see this film, and heard both criticism and awe in early reviews. I knew this was another film I had to see for myself. Here’s what I got:

—–1) Eh. For a 140 million dollar budget, I would’ve expected a story at least as engaging as the special effects. By leaving so much out (since nobody can cover Exodus entirely on film), what was left wasn’t portrayed creatively enough. I could sense myself actually getting bored during the movie! Everything felt too rushed. My eyes were in for a treat, but my soul was not impressed.

—–2) The soundtrack is forgettable. I don’t remember a single moment where I went: I gotta hunt this score down and put it on repeat ASAP!

—–3) Things missing include: Moses’ real mother, the pillar of fire, the staff’s importance, how angry God and Moses get with the golden calf, and that’s only what I can remember…

—–4) But there are good things too about the film: Moses must be humbled before God. The ways humility is taught and represented is interesting. In Moses’ first encounter with God’s messenger, he is stuck in quicksand up to his face. Nothing else is visible but Moses’ eyes, nose, mouth and cheeks: he is literally dirt and mud. And that’s the root word of humble: humus (Latin for earth, soil, etc.).

Being humble means being grounded in reality, close to the soil, because we are dust and will become dust again. We must remember our mortality and finitude, and let God be God. Moses in this film had to learn this, and for good reason since he was a spoiled prince of the ancient superpower called Egypt.

—–5) God’s messenger (aka: angel) is portrayed as a boy. I don’t see anything wrong about this. In fact, probably a good way to teach Moses more humility! A grown warrior prince humbled to obedience to a child who represents the Almighty.

MosesZipporah—–6) Perhaps one of the few best parts of this film was the emphasis on marriage and family, especially fatherhood. Moses and his wife, Zipporah, share beautiful vows together, and the respect they show for one another is a good example of marriage. Fatherhood is shown through how Moses cares for his son, and even in how Ramses loves his own.

—–7) Another part well done are the plagues. I enjoyed seeing how the plagues were set up to be more naturalistic, including the parting of the Red Sea. As the audience, we could relate easier to the doubting Egyptians and Pharaoh who brushed aside the calamities and pushed on with their goals and lives. They saw everything as explainable by nature, and we moviegoers could too… until the coincidences got so stretched that it could NOT be mere coincidence anymore: oh… the sea level just happened to lower when the Hebrews needed an escape? Oh… the fact that only Egyptian first born children died during the first Passover? Hmmm… something tells me this was all guided by an intelligence. Wonder who that could be…

—–8) All in all, Exodus: Gods and Kings failed to insult me, and also failed to impress me. I wish it actually did one or the other, because I’m glad I don’t have to write more about this because there ain’t much here other than superficial visuals. Go ahead and watch it, but don’t be surprised if it’s underwhelming. If you’re in a mood for a more intense version, check out the original in the Bible or even the Prince of Egypt, and you’ll wish Hollywood would’ve been more creative. We were promised an epic, but got eh… Wasted opportunity, I think.

ExodusRedSea

For what I think are good reviews, see here:

1) ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’: Theological Reflections

2) An Interview with Scott, Bale and Edgerton