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.

UPDATED: Getting to Know “Noah”

Noah

Be warned: SPOILERS POSSIBLE

Ten years ago, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ cemented itself as the greatest motion-icon about our Lord’s Passion. Today, there is still no comparing it with any other film about Christ. It has set the bar, and the bar is in orbit.

Yesterday, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah did the same for the Genesis narrative about the Great Flood. So be warned now: if you’re looking for a rant against Noah, you won’t find it here. Instead, I believe the film did more good than bad, more beauty than bumbling, and more creativity and faithfulness to the Flood story than what I’ve seen in a long time. (If you have a specific critique of the film, please feel free to comment!)

Links to various reviews and interviews will follow, so you can see what better critics than I have been saying, but before that, let me share my favorite scenes (these are obviously spoilers):

  1. The Creator sends a little raindrop down. It hits the dirt. Noah (played by Russell Crowe) looks to the sky, sees not a cloud, and wonders where the drop came from. He looks down again and it pops like popcorn into a flower. I don’t know about you, but I would go nuts if ex nihilo happened right in front of my face! (Ex nihilo is Latin for “out of nothing,” meaning God alone creates out of nothing.)
  2. Illa (played by Emma Watson) is ashamed of being infertile, to the point of trying to convince Noah to find another woman for his son. She believes to the point of tears that she is worthless because she cannot be a mother. But Noah refuses. He tells her again and again: “I thought you would be a burden, but I was wrong. You are a gift. A precious, precious gift!”
  3. When a grounded angel repented to God for having sinned, he was blitzed straight to Heaven – like a shooting star in reverse. The beauty of a saved creation, a contrite spirit, a redeemed beloved (like the Prodigal Son), always brings tears of joy to me.
  4. And the best for last: Illa, as a new mother now to her newborns, begs to at least be allowed to sing a lullaby to her children before they are taken from her, to at least calm them to sleep first. Trust me – you just have to see and listen to this scene for yourself. Even if you dislike the whole movie, this scene is worth it. Emma Watson just ravaged my heart. At display here is what Pope John Paul II coined the Feminine Genius, and what I call severe tenderness (more on those another time).

Other reviews:

Illa