How Catholic Is Of Gods and Men? Part 5

04/08/2011 Comments (9)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Finally, in addition to the spontaneous words and actions of the monks (part 4), the rich and frequent scenes of prayers, hymns and liturgy, an integral part of the fabric of the film, contributes enormously to the depiction of the monks’ Catholic milieu, their beliefs and spirituality.

We’ve already seen the immense significance accorded to Christmas in a crucial early sequence, with its Christmas hymn recounting how “God has prepared the earth like a cradle / For his coming from above” as “the Child of life divine,” “taking flesh of our flesh,” etc. Later in that sequence, we see the monks tenderly place a manger holding the Christ child in...READ MORE

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How Catholic Is Of Gods and Men? Part 4

04/06/2011 Comments (6)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

After three posts exploring the Catholic content of Of Gods and Men, I thought I was finished, but combox responses persuaded me to add two more posts.

One comment expressed concerns about edits being made to eliminate references to Jesus Christ. Another expressed doubts regarding the extent to which the monks’ conversations, including their debates about whether or not to remain in Algeria, made reference to Jesus, God or spiritual considerations. Other readers have written to me with related questions and misgivings, though to be fair I’ve also heard from many deeply appreciative viewers of the film.

To an extent some of these questions are...READ MORE

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The Jesuses That Pat Forgot!

04/04/2011 Comments (16)

My esteemed colleague Pat Archbold’s lively and engaging post on big-screen Jesuses has obliged me to add a few notes of my own (with apologies for the post title joke—I don’t really think Pat “forgot” anything, since his list wasn’t meant to be exhaustive in the first place, and certainly mine isn’t either).

Judging from Pat’s combox, the best big-screen Jesus for a lot of people is either Robert Powell of Jesus of Nazareth or Jim Caviezel of The Passion of the Christ. I think there’s a lot to be said for both, although obviously no actor could truly do Jesus justice, and both performances have weak spots in my opinion.

Powell aptly conveys authority, fire and tenderness, but there are...READ MORE

Filed under jesus, jesus films, movies

Winter's Bone – in 30 Seconds!

04/01/2011 Comments (1)

Paying tribute to Winter’s Bone in a 30-second rhyming review presented some challenges. I decided to riff on one of the bluegrass songs in the film, although without instruments (and with only 30 seconds to get it out) I had to make some adjustments to the rhythm and melody.

The last two lines were a last-minute change that I’m somewhat ambivalent about. “We’ll understand it better by and by” refers to the title of the gospel hymn by Rev. Charles A. Tindley played over the end credits. I like the allusion to the hymn, but I’m not sure I should have changed the last two lines, which originally ran, “It’s not for the faint of heart / But there’s grace and beauty in this work of art.”...READ MORE

Filed under 30-second reviews, movies, reel faith, reviews, winter's bone

The Riddle of Inception

03/30/2011 Comments (21)

Considering that Inception has been on DVD for months now, I’m a little surprised that my “Inception in 30 seconds” video generated the brief but lively discussion it did, but I guess that’s partly a tribute to the staying power of the film and the questions it raises.

One reader asked what I meant by citing “a riddle in the final scene that no one has yet explained to my satisfaction.” I’ve read lots of interpretations of the film and the meaning of the final scene, but none of them explains all the data in a way that satisfies me. I don’t insist on a definitive or final answer—it’s okay with me that the movie should be ambiguous—but at least I’d like a possible explanation that actually...READ MORE

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Inception—in 30 Seconds!

03/28/2011 Comments (19)

Back from a week in Spain! More to come this week on Of Gods and Men, once I catch my breath—and catch up on a few other things—but for now here’s my 30-second look at Inception. Enjoy!

Filed under 30-second reviews, inception, movies, reel faith, reviews

How Catholic Is Of Gods and Men? Part 3

03/23/2011 Comments (10)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Of Gods and Men concludes, very nearly, with excerpts from the real Dom Christian’s spiritual testament, a meditation in which the abbot of Tibhirine reflects on the possibility of his eventual murder. Here, in part, is how it is quoted in the film:

I could never desire such a death. I could never feel gladdened that these people I love be accused randomly of my murder. I know the contempt felt for people here indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by certain Islamism. This country, and Islam, for me are something different. They’re a body and a soul. My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who called me naive or...READ MORE

Filed under islam, monastic life, movies, of gods and men

How Catholic Is Of Gods and Men? Part 2

03/22/2011 Comments (19)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Does Of Gods and Men portray the Tibhirine monks evangelizing their Muslim neighbors? Not directly, certainly. Trappist monks generally don’t engage in direct evangelization. It’s true, as noted by my correspondent (see Part 1), that a positive depiction of evangelization would be strikingly countercultural, but we mustn’t substitute ideas for a film we would like to see for criticism of an actual film. What a film might have done may provide an interesting point of comparison or contrast, but in the end a film stands or falls what it does, not what it might have done.

If a film is based on a true story (or even a fictional story) that we care...READ MORE

Filed under islam, monastic life, movies, of gods and men

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About SDG

Steven D. Greydanus
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Deacon Steven D. Greydanus is film critic for the National Catholic Register, creator of Decent Films, and a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Newark. With David DiCerto, he co-hosts the Gabriel Award–winning cable TV show “Reel Faith” for New Evangelization Television. Steven has degrees in media arts and religious studies, and has contributed several entries to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, including “The Church and Film” and a number of filmmaker biographies. He has also written about film for the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy. He has a BFA in Media Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and an MA in Religious Studies from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, PA. Steven and his wife Suzanne have seven children.