Antonia Bird’s Priest and my early days as a film critic

Antonia Bird passed away yesterday at the age of 54.

I don’t know how many film buffs out there will recognize her name. The IMDb indicates that she had been working pretty steadily since 1985, but mostly in TV; her feature-film output was limited to four films she directed in the 1990s, and of those, I have only seen two: Priest (1994) and Ravenous (1999).

But Priest looms large in my mind as a film that I got to review at a particular crucial juncture in my life — and so, although my review is fairly critical of the film, I have posted it here in memory of its director.

A bit of background, if I may: In the summer of 1992, I had begun to contribute film reviews on a regular basis to the paper that became known as BC Christian News. Around that same time, I had also begun to seriously re-examine my beliefs about, well, just about everything — starting with sexuality, thanks to a special issue of Discover magazine that kind of blew my mind.

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Is James Bond Catholic? Protestant? Neither? Both?

James Bond is no stranger to religious references and metaphors. The very first novel about his exploits, Casino Royale, devoted an entire chapter to ‘The Nature of Evil’, in which Bond argued that we need an “Evil Book” to complement the “Good Book”, i.e. the Bible. And as anyone who has seen the trailers for Skyfall knows, the most recent movie — released overseas ten days ago, and coming to North America this Friday — includes fleeting references to “resurrection” and “sins”.

As it turns out, the allusions to religion in Skyfall don’t stop there, and, while they may offer little more than handy plot twists or turns of phrase, they actually got me wondering if previous Bond books or films had made any reference to Bond’s religious inclinations or, perhaps, to those of his family. (I have read several of the books, though not all of them, and none of them recently; and I have seen all of the movies, though only some of them within recent memory.)

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