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What’s a Film That You Think “Gets” Christianity? CHNetwork Community Question

March 21, 2017 7 Comments

Special thanks to Fr. Mike Schmitz, of Ascension Press fame, for helping us kick off this week’s Community Question!

As many of the pastors in our network will tell you, there are some movies that seem to naturally lend themselves to being used in homilies and sermons. Certain films that feature themes of self-sacrifice, conversion, love of neighbor and even the meaning of life can sometimes impact viewers in ways that apologetics, debate, and argument can’t- which leads us to this week’s CHNetwork Community Question:

What’s a film that you think “gets” the message of the Gospel?  Here’s what some of our members and readers had to say:

*****

“Francesco Rosi’s Three Brothers. If I remember right, the director isn’t a Christian but he is someone formed as a Catholic who expresses that formation in this movie. Catholicism doesn’t appear directly in the movie, except as part of the way its world works. It’s the kind of movie someone who didn’t feel the need to be ‘religious’ would make, because religion is such a part of his world. 

But, I think, the way the Faith has formed their world appears through all the characters. The old man who’s just lost his wife and the three brothers, who’ve all drifted from the Faith but reflect it in what they care about most — in what are at some level their substitutes for the practice of Catholicism. And the last few minutes offer a heart-breakingly beautiful vision of what fidelity in marriage means.

I don’t think I was married when I first saw it, but the ending left me in tears. The very last shot has stayed with me as an image of the end and reward of marriage.”

David Mills, Contributing Senior Editor, The Stream

*****

“It’s tempting to go with a classic, but I’ll mention a newer film: Pixar’s Inside Out.  At the beginning, there seems to be no purpose to the character of Sadness.  The other characterized emotions in the film are put off by her, and think she only taints the memories of the girl they all inhabit.  However, in a crucial ‘Christ figure’ scene, Sadness touches her sorrow to the sorrow of Bing Bong, the girl’s imaginary friend, and that compassion empowers Bing Bong to make a heroic sacrifice that ultimately saves everyone else in the story.  And the film has only grown in meaning for me every time I watch it.”

Matt Swaim, Communications Coordinator, The Coming Home Network

*****

“To me, the literary genius we find in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is the greatest allegory of the Christian life. In his novel we find heroes and villains, mercy and revenge, reconciliation and damnation. Les Mis showcases the ultimate of Christian conversions in Jean Valjean, who, though he made and sold Rosaries, was still afraid to be a Catholic fully alive in mercy. His nemesis, Javert, understood justice but lacked mercy. The final words of the novel ring of the sum of the prophets: ‘To love another person is to see the face of God.'”

Shaun McAfee, founder, EpicPew.com

******

Amistad.  The juxtaposing of the Africans interpreting the Bible via pictures and the judge praying before issuing his verdict releasing them is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful depictions of the kerygma and the social implications of the faith I’ve ever seen.”

Mike Allen, The Mike Allen Show

*****

“Kathy and I just re-watched last weekend one of our favorite films that captures so much of the essence of Christianity, from prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and suffering, to the joys of communal efforts that make the burdens of Christ’s yoke such much easier and lighter. It is the 1963 film Lilies of the Field starring Sidney
Poitier. The movie draws its title from Matt.6:28-29 and the verse itself comes out in a humorous text-proof battle of sorts between a care-free, but devout African-American Baptist handy man and a rather stern Mother Superior fresh off the boat with a small group of sisters after a harrowing journey of then still communist East Germany.  

The movie focuses on how these penniless sisters convince the handy man to build a new chapel for them and local parishioners in a desert like setting in the American West.  Through the course of this light-hearted, joyous, and most moving film,  the handy man, the sisters, a troubled itinerant Irish-American priest, an agnostic restaurant owner, and a group of Mexican-American parishioners are among those who find common ground and experience true joy as they all work together in this joint project for glory of Christ.  (In a way, it might be like a foretaste of heaven.) “

Dr. Kevin Vost, author, From Atheism to Catholicism: How Scientists and Philosophers Led Me to Truth

*****

“What film has portrayed the power of forgiveness more movingly than The Mission? When Robert De Niro reaches the top of those falls, dragging his armor in penance, and one of the Indians, whose people he has been killing and enslaving, approaches with a knife and cuts the weight from De Niro’s back and pushes it over the cliff — there’s no scene like this in the history of film.”

Ken Hensley, Pastoral Care and Resources Consultant, The Coming Home Network

*****

What about you?  Is there a film that you think ‘gets’ certain aspects of the Christian worldview, or Gospel story?  Please share in the comments below!

  • oxonian95

    The Lord of the Rings always amazes me with new lessons on Providence, virtue and vice.

    • Matt Swaim

      Not to mention friendship, perseverance, even the sacraments… a truly timeless story.

    • Teresa Grodi

      YES!

  • Jessa Therese

    I might have said something about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but after listening to Father’s answer I think I’ll just go with Pinocchio…

  • Ken Hensley

    I have to mention a few. I think Fr Schmitz has hit a home run with his selection of Pinocchio, it deals with so many angles on the truth. That may be the best single film.

    However, if I think of films that do a beautiful job of highlighting one Christian truth or another, a few come to mind. For instance, what film has done a better job or portraying sacrificial love than Speed 2: Cruise Control, starring Keano Reeves and Sandra Bullock? Just kidding. What film has done a better job of portraying sacrificial love than Life is Beautiful? Beat that if you can.

    And then, what film has portrayed the power of forgiveness more movingly than The Mission? When Robert De Niro reaches the top of those falls, dragging his armor in penance, and one of the Indians, whose people he has been killing and enslaving, approaches with a knife and cuts the weight from De Niro’s back and pushes it over the cliff — there’s no scene like this in the history of film.

    Finally, what scene more powerfully portrays Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God!” then the scene in Joe vs the Volcano, where Tom Hanks, castaway on a raft at sea and nearly dead watches the moon rise out of the ocean and confesses his gratitude to God?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulKlf0MMe5o

    Thus have I spoken.

  • Gail Finke

    The Coen Brothers “remake” (I use that term loosely) of “The Ladykillers” is a fantastic example of a certain kind of Jewish and Protestant outlook on life. Their most lovable character ever, Marva Munson, is saved by divine intervention from damnation and from being murdered by a gang of thieves led by a character from a very different literary work. Each member of the gantg dies and goes to Hell. Ms. Munson is saved by an angel after she refuses the temptation to sin when it is made particularly attractive to her by the devilish ringleader. He tries to make her an accomplice by telling her the casino they robbed was evil and anyway would have have its losses paid by insurance, and offering to give part of the proceeds from their big heist to her favorite cause: Bob Jones University. Most people misunderstood this movie because they expected it to be an actual remake of “The Ladykillers,” it is one of my favorites. It is one long illustration of: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” She gets led to temptation but doesn’t give in, and is delivered from evil.

  • Teresa Grodi

    This is such a great question. Here are three I love:

    Bruce Almightily
    The Exorcism of Emily Rose
    Groundhog’s Day (yep, Matt Swaim)

    And has anyone watched that cute kids’ show The Friar? Whoever made that TOTALLY gets the Gospel.

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