Monday, January 27, 2020


Toller (Ethan Hawke) tries to comfort
Mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried) 
in First Reformed

Today's crisis of faith double feature begins with Paul Schrader's First Reformed, a story of a minister named Toller (Ehtan Hawke) in upstate New York who has to wrestle with an interesting conundrum-How can Toller spread the word of God in his little church when it is being backed by a megachuch that has financial backing of polluters? How can God's word be spread when we seem to care so little about the planet he has blessed us with? Toller's other demons include a son that was killed in Iraq and an ongoing drinking problem. Much of Toller's viewpoint is exacerbated by his ministering to a stuggling environmental activist and his pregnant wife Mary (Amanda Seyfried).  

First Reformed reminds me a lot of Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest (The pastor keeps a diary as his health deteriorates in both films). The film also appears to be headed for a finale reminiscent of Schrader's own Taxi Driver script. However, the conclusion didn't go at all the way I expected. There is really a lot to unpack in this film and it is well worth the effort. Despite many accolades, First Reformed only received on Oscar nomination, that being for Schrader's Screenplay.

I've liked Schrader's films over the years, many of which were heavily influenced by his strict Calvinist upbringing in which he wasn't even allowed to see a movie until he was seventeen! This struggle between his religiosity and the secular is exemplified in many of his films such as Hardcore (1979) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). 

Current Pope (Anthony Hopkins) tries to pick
the brain of future Pope Francis (Johnathan Pryce)
in The Two Popes

Another crisis of faith is in store for Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins), as he struggles with the unprecedented decision of retiring from being Pope and likely having the new Pope be the much more progressive Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce). The back and forth between the stodgy Conservative Benedict and the more liberally minded Bergoglio provide for much of the meat of this film. The script by Anthony McCarten nicely shows the confrontation between the two men without being overly preachy (for lack of a better word) about the dogmas of the two men. It is also necessary for the leads to be two heavy hitters and Hopkins and Pryce fill that bill nicely. The two of them carry most of the movie with the exception of some flashback scenes of the early life of Bergoglio.

Director Meirelles has been praised in the past for his films such as City of God (2002) and The Constant Gardener (2005).

The Two Popes has been nominated for three Oscars: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

No comments:

Post a Comment