Prince of Egypt: A haunting cartoon retelling of the Exodus which pulls few punches. The childhood friendship between Moses and Rameses makes the sight of Rameses’ (firstborn) son truly chilling. The women get a lot to do. The animation includes harrowing passages like Moses’ nightmare where he falls into the cuneiform story of the killing of the Hebrew children, or the final plague; and also images luminous with wonder, like the giant fish swimming through the Red Sea as it stands up like a wall to the right and to the left. The world of Scripture feels global, full of actual different cultures, without there being some kind of heavyhanded moral about diversity. Prince gives great emotional depth to the story–not only Moses’ personal journey but the longing of the Hebrew people for rescue, and the tragedy of the Egyptians trapped inside systematic injustice with their captives.
Apparently this film was criticized on release for being self-serious. To me the weakest points were, instead, the attempts at humor (the Pharaoh’s sidekicks, the horse chase). Even those weren’t weak exactly, just not up to the standard of the more serious elements.
The Flowers of St. Francis or its better original title, Francis, God’s Jester: A delightfully ramshackle, episodic movie, more about Franciscan spirituality than about Francis as a person, full of humor and unexpected incident, and mostly acted by real Franciscans. (The man who played Francis doesn’t even have his name in the credits.)
I loved the mud and filth of it, the rain and hunger. I loved the confrontation with the comedy tyrant knight, trapped in his weapons of the flesh.
I loved the very Gospel way the early Franciscans refuse to solve problems the way we’d think they should: This man is too old to tramp the countryside with us! Look how he clutches his blanket around himself! And the man does get to come with them, but the way they handle this situation is surprising to the point of being disturbing. And it brings joy. Which seems like the exact thing you want from a movie about a man and a way of life so passionately opposed to material comfort, to worldly success, to taking care of oneself–to everything that makes sense.
Into Great Silence: This is an experience it’s hard to say much about. It’s almost three hours of Carthusian monks, who talk more than you might expect but are still not exactly loquacious!, working and praying. The film follows the seasons, which I liked a lot. The director, Philip Gröning, has a beautiful sense for light and darkness; I was less sold on some of the choices of when to cut, since shots often seemed shorter than I wanted them to be. The choice of faces to focus on at the end was lovely. I loved the cats, of course, and the sledding which many viewers have mentioned, and the self-parodying argument about whether the monks should continue washing their hands before meals. But in reality what can a review tell you about a 2+ hour film about a year in the Grande Chartreuse? If you want to watch it, you should.
The Rapture: This early ’90s horror (????) flick may be the only film which unites both Victor Morton and Kindertrauma in praise. So you won’t be surprised that I loved it. I think maybe you should go in knowing as little as possible, as I did, so if all you know is “yes, the Rapture is involved somehow, also it’s horror (????),” that might be enough.
I mean it starts so modestly! A woman in a 411 cubicle farm monotones her way through her buzzy-flourescent-lighting day, then stalks the streets with her decadent beau in search of swingers for a foursome. Ah the ’90s, all that alienated overexplicit movie sex! Boy howdy, that is not the kind of movie this will be by the time it stops. There’s a slow approach, then a sudden sharp turn and a timeskip, and then… then things really go off the rails. Feel free to stop reading here if you haven’t seen it!
The Rapture is a harrowing film, truly. It takes you to the edge, to that moment which comes to many believers, when the promises shatter in our hands and we ask, Who has betrayed me?
There are a lot of possible answers there: my teachers, the Church, myself. The Rapture does not take any of those paths out of the desert. Mimi Rogers is gorgeous and heartbreaking as a woman who learns how a resurrection really feels; there’s a beautiful image of liberation which does not bring inner freedom. Other movies would stop short of the choices this one makes, or would cheapen them, going for easy answers (she’s cuckoo!) or undercutting with disclaimery humor. The Rapture commits. Scroll down here for Victor’s review, or go here for Kindertrauma’s. KT’s is very spoilerous.