07 July 2014

Calvary: the movie and its themes

I had never heard of the movie Calvary until last week. Then my wife and I went to see it.  The website of the movie says, "Father James is a good priest who is faced with sinister and troubling circumstances brought about by a mysterious member of his parish. Although he continues to comfort his own fragile daughter (Pictured) and reach out to help members of his church with their various scurrilous moral- and often- comic problems, he feels sinister and troubling forces closing in, and begins to wonder if he will have the courage to face his own personal Calvary."

A personal Calvary. That's intriguing. The 'original' Calvary of course is a hill in Jerusalem and was made 'famous' by the death of a carpenter-turned-rabbi-turned-... executed one there on Calvary.  His name is Yeshua.  Father James who lives 38 kilometres from Sligo, Ireland, calls him Jesus. But which Calvary is in view in the mind of the writer/ director?

I will not tell you the ending, which is so Tarantino-like, feeling I was watching Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained. The movie itself had a feeling or a little of The Apostle with Robert Duvall. The themes of the movie are deep: forgiveness, morality, faith, sexuality, doubt, religion of course, murder, suicide and many more. Family is shown as a tender and real issue and perhaps the longest-lasting. 

I first entered into the world of Irish drama back in high school, but most vividly as an adult in the plays of Martin McDonagh. Irish plays that I kept seeing almost always were tragedies and McDonagh characterized the mainstream well. His brother John Michael McDonagh wrote and directed Calvary. The tragedy must run in the family.  The Sydney Morning Herald tagged this movie with this line, "Brendan Gleeson's character in this jolting and brilliant movie plays the one good man in a town full of jackals."

A town full of jackals. They certainly were characters. An African garage mechanic, a medical doctor, a butcher...all of them who have some kind of problem with the good priest. Add in the local publican, a fellow doubting Thomas priest, a rich man who would seek redemption through philanthropy, a cop and a homosexual gigolo... you get it; they have everything in a small village in County Sligo. Father James is powerful and strong. His hair and his face are wind-blown. The countryside lends its support. The beach is rugged. The movie could have been shot in black and white...it had everything else to be film noir. Jackals and the west coast of Ireland. And McDonagh's script. 

I found it a compelling drama. The language is dark. The scenes are often dark. The themes are immensely dark. Don't take your 11-year-old. But discuss things with your kids when you are able as they are being fed info about these themes regularly. 

The real Calvary was compelling drama, too. The language there was dark. A thief being executed next to Yeshua cursed him. The crowd wagged their head at him in his ignominy. The scene itself was dark, as the sky turned to darkness for three hours that Friday morning. The purpose of Yeshua's death is clear but awesome. He came to die for the sins of the world. For your sins and for my sins. For the sins of Father James and John M McDonagh. For the sins of the popcorn vendor at the cinema and for your publican. Without his dying on Calvary, we would be in the darkness of hopelessness, as the Bible says. Without the dying of Yeshua, our lives and our planet would only experience tragedy. But that's not where that story ends. And I don't need to issue a spoiler-alert. The real story didn't end with his death and burial. He rose from the dead on the 3rd day. And that changes everything.
 
By believing in the death AND resurrection of Messiah Yeshua, you receive real hope. Real life. For Irish and for Jewish people. For all people. For you. Consider this, won't you?

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