Risen

risen finalIn a well-written and well-acted scene from Kevin Reynolds and Paul Aiello’s recent film, Risen, the Roman tribune, Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes), questions one of the guards left to watch the tomb of the crucified Jesus.

The guard, drunk in his cups, has been pardoned by the prefect, Pontius Pilate. Clavius knows that the guard was only pardoned from such a dire offense—falling asleep while on duty—because he has sworn to a purchased tale: Jesus’s followers fell upon the hapless Romans, overcame them, and stole the body.

Clavius then threatens the man to get the truth and in return is given the real story—that the stone blew away from the sepulcher, the ropes and chains exploded, and a new light filled the world. But instead of awe and peace, what the guard witnessed has driven him nearly mad. He clutches at the tribune and whispers, beseechingly, a request:

“Explain it to me.” [Read more…]

God Ponders the Heart

macbethIn Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, the writers frame the story in such a way that the common motivations are nested within, or are born from, a new one: the story opens upon a Scottish heath—damp, cold, and windblown—where the Thane of Glamis (Michael Fassbender) and his Lady (Marion Cotillard) stand at the graveside of their young child.

The boy has succumbed to some sort of pox, and the grief the parents bear is depicted so that the pain is the kind of blunt, brutal type—the emotional equivalent of a limb cropped away with a pair of dull shears. From now on, the life of “going on” will be as tedious as the life they have just come through, to borrow a line from later in the play.

Of course, this is not in Shakespeare’s work itself, but the writers and director have taken artistic license from a much-debated line spoken by Lady Macbeth when she is encouraging her husband to commit regicide: [Read more…]

The World Beyond the Room

Room MovieThe most obvious analysis of Emma Donoghue’s Room, one of last year’s most heralded films, is on the basis of what it says about imagination.

In the film version of the novel, five-year-old Jack is provided a means by which to live his life through images, crafts, pictures, and stories. That would not be so extraordinary, nor his exceptional character so marked, if it were not for the fact that he has lived his entire existence closed up inside a small shed.

Jack’s mother, who was abducted seven years before by a sexual predator, is his co-prisoner in a world no larger than twelve feet square. But she has made the most of every inch.

A feat of maternal determination makes all of her efforts for him dual-purposed: she has him do exercises with her to stay physically strong, but also to provide him with some concept of distance and space; she has him read aloud from a book to give him an education, but also so that he can access a type of freedom that is otherwise denied; she has him mark his height upon a wall to gauge his growth, but also to give him something to look forward to—a time in which he will outgrow the room. [Read more…]

Evil’s Share

Johann Heinrich FussliIt has been said that one of the most effective means by which evil can have its way is to convince us that we are too abominable to love. It’s not a bad tactic. When our faults are catalogued back to us, the inventory is hair-raising and earth-shattering.

This is one of the methods attributed to demons, unsurprisingly; they shock the conscious self through the exposition of things it knows but won’t look at, has suspected but never acknowledged. This takes the self to a place from which it is loath to return. Amazed at the true level of its depravity, it exacts a self-imposed exile and seeks its own annihilation.

And yet, for all of the destructiveness wrought by the demonic motive, there is something searching about it as well—a hunger perversely akin to the longing of those who seek a better end. Evil desires its level, but can only destroy it in the attainment. A famous literary work supplies the example. [Read more…]

There Must Be a Word for This

Summer Country LandNow spring has come again, the season that’s best for hope. Post-Lenten promises are fresh as a baby’s breathing, and the failures that eventually spoil them are as far away as the height of summer’s heat.

Hope can make us believe in endings as well as beginnings, in the idea that we can accomplish the hard tasks of life and see them to the finish.

“It will get done,” says hope, settling a resolve into our hearts. “Despite all, it will get done.”

However, as usual, I get pensive about things coming to a close. When years of labor spent in achieving something are about to meet resolution, there’s part of me that puts on the brakes—not strong enough to stop the momentum, but strong enough to set my mind churning.

“What now?” becomes the question. Achievement ends purpose, and purpose gives meaning. When foundering around for purpose, we can’t help but feel disoriented.

I’ve heard people express what I’m describing along these lines: “Without what I’ve been doing for so long, I expect I’ll be a bit lost.” And that feeling is all the more profound when the end is an event more necessary than relished, more required than sought. [Read more…]


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