Showing posts from September, 2015

Of Gods and Men

Review by John D. O'Brien, S.J. Director: Xavier Beauvois, 122 min., France, 2010. Starring: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin Plot Based on the true story of the eight Trappist monks of the Monastery of Notre-Dame de l’Atlas, who in 1996 found themselves caught in the midst of the Algerian Civil War. The monks live a quiet life of work and prayer and friendship with the Muslim villagers of Tibhirine. Threatened by terrorist factions, they are urged to flee the country. This triggers an excruciating discernment: to leave or to stay with the people they have come to know and love. Film History Nominated for many awards, and winning three at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, including the Grand Prize of the Jury. Spiritual Reflection It is rare to see a religious film of such power as Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men . It is not a film about the monks’ deaths, which were hailed as martyrdoms, but rather about how they lived and why they were willing t

Il Vangelo Secondo San Mateo

Review by John D. O'Brien, S.J. (The Gospel According to Saint Matthew) Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini, 137 min., Italy, 1964. Starring: Enrique Irazoqui, Margherita Caruso, Susanna Pasolini Music: Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev, Bacalov, Odetta. Plot In the Judean countryside, Jesus begins to preach, attracting disciples and sometimes multitudes. His is stern and demanding: “I have not come to bring peace but the sword”. He is also in a hurry, constantly moving from place to place. His teachings often criticize the powers that be, which attracts the attention of the Pharisees, elders and chief priests. He is arrested, beated, tried and crucified. Afterwards he appears to his disciples and gives them instructions. Film History Filmed in the style of Italian neo-realism, which is stark, gritty, and believed that ordinary people, rather than actors, were best suited to play characters (not any character, but the one they were born to play ), the film was the creation of

To the Wonder

By John D. O'Brien, S.J. Director: Terrence Malick, 112 min., U.SA., 2013. Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams Plot Neil (Affleck) and Marina (Kurylenko) fall in love in Paris and at Mont St. Michel (called by the French “la merveille” –  the wonder). Marina tells Neil that she will go with him wherever he goes, hinting that she would marry him. Although Neil is noncommittal, they return, with Marina’s young daughter Tatiana, to live in Neil’s home in suburban Oklahoma, where tensions arise in their relationship. There we learn that a Spanish-born priest, Father Quintana (Bardem), is struggling with his faith, while continuing his regular rounds of pastoral ministry. Later, Neil encounters a woman from his past (McAdams). All characters, it becomes clear, are looking for love. Some succeed at penetrating love’s veil, while for others it will remain elusive. Film History To the Wonder was reviewed by Roger Ebert, the well-known Americ


By John D. O'Brien, S.J. Director: Danny Boyle, 98 min., U.K., 2004. Starring: Alex Etel, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan Plot The UK is about to switch its currency from Pounds to Euros, giving some criminals a chance to rob a train loaded with banknotes destined for incineration. During the robbery, one of the bags falls onto playhouse belonging to Damian, a young boy who talks to saints. Damian then starts seeing what the world and the people around him are made of. Ethics, being human, and the soul all come to the forefront in this film. It asks us to consider our basic interior dispositions as we enter into our own film-based spiritual journey this Fall. Film History Premiered at TIFF. Won a number of film awards, including “Best Screenplay” at the British Independent Film Awards. Proved that Danny Boyle cannot be pigeon-holed as a director. He has made compelling films about Scottish heroin addicts ( Trainspotting ), mad zombies ( 28 Days Later ), and a gam