The movie is depressing and negative but has some positive aspects as well. What I learned from this movie is that sin makes people miserable. Why don’t we embrace Jesus who is love and who died for the very dirty sins we commit? There is hope in the light if we surrender to Christ.
I don’t find this film depressing or negative. I feel that it is best understood in the context given through its title. What happens on Calvary, Christians believe, is part of a larger story of “good news”. I think that is a lens through which this picture is intended to be viewed…
Well said. I found the movie to be one of the most serious and thoughtful that I have seen in years. One has to ask the question though: who is the real protagonist (proto-agonist, ie ‘first wrestler’) in this dark tale? The answer has to be that it is modern Ireland.
It also reminded me of such serious books (and films) as those of Georges Bernanos: Diary of a Country Priest and Under the Sun of Satan. Both are serious explorations of the priestly life in the real world.
This is a thought-provoking comment, Dr. MacLeod.
I wonder, though, whether the Catholic Church itself might be considered the proto-agonist. While I can see the various characters as representative of modern Ireland, I feel that each of these characters more fundamentally represents something of an indictment of the Church.
The rich man, for example, could remind of the tendency of the Church to succumb to greed. He is given a line, for example, about how it would be a black day when the Church is no longer interested in his money. The flirtatious woman could be representative of sexual dysfunction; the aged writer, anachronism; the doctor, the atheism which the Church has fostered…
As an aside, thank you for drawing attention to Bernanos. To my embarrassment, I have not yet acquainted myself with him. One of my favourite storytellers – Graham Greene – is often identified as being indebted to the school of French literature of which Bernanos was an important part. Perhaps your reminder will compel me to make up for this deficit in my own reading.
I have come across your blog and, needless to say, was immensely interested in what a priest thought about this movie. English is not my native language and I’m still a bit shaken up by the movie. Sorry in advance if I’m a bit incoherent.
When I started watching it, I didn’t know what to expect. I have extremely high tolerance for violence and all forms of terror depicted in movies (though I’m not proud of that because I don’t think that’s a positive thing). This movie freaked me out within 10 minutes. Though I’m Catholic, I don’t practice my faith, don’t live by its dogmas and don’t got to church (but I do believe in God and try my best to be a good person and I think that’s what counts the most). My family is religious and I’ve had some positive clerical figures in my life from childhood and it infuriates when any priest is being discriminated because of the sins of a few of them.
This movie simply broke my heart. There’s nothing worse or more intolerable than having to watch good people suffer terrible injustice especially if they still have the faith and the heart to forgive their tormentors. At first I absolutely hated the townspeople and labeled them evil and worthy of death but by the end I realized they weren’t evil. They were just ignorant and lost and most of them didn’t even know that what they were doing was wrong. I’m pretty much prone to anger and I don’t forgive easily but by the end I wholeheartedly felt sad not just for the priest but for all of them. This movie was heartbreaking and infuriating. However, it made me feel and made me think and made me cry and I couldn’t say that about any other movie I’ve seen in the last few years.
Thank you for so thoughtfully sharing your experience of this film. You describe it as breaking your heart. Any movie that can produce that sort of empathic response, in my opinion, is worthy of attention.
I am sure that your reading is anything but deficient, Ms Wilson, and your suggestion that the protagonist of the film is really the Church, rather than Ireland as I proposed, is persuasive. Clearly, I need to see the film again. I suspect, though, that the relationship between the Church and the country of Ireland is so ‘symbiotic’ as to make the distinction slight and perhaps even unnecessary. At any rate you will agree surely agree with me — to paraphrase Wilde paraphrasing the Bible — that, like Whistler’s right hand, it teaches us a terrible instruction.
Do read Diary of a Country Priest when you can. It is a similar story: a young and idealistic priest in his first country ‘cure’ wanting to serve his God but confronted at level, high and mean, by the working out of a deadening evil.
I had a mixed view of the film. I liked the landscape and sense of beauty in life, but I found that most of the characters were drawn in a misanthropic way. The idealisation of the central character seemed to require that everyone else be either strong in evil, or likeable but weak (i.e. the daughter.) The younger priest, Father Leary, seemed to be depicted as a non-person, it is a very uncharitable way of seeing someone – with such contempt.
I do not find that Father James has been idealized. He is presented, rather, as a transparently imperfect individual. Nor do I find Father Leary presented with contempt. James has to tell Leary that he does not, in fact, hate him. He simply finds Leary lacking in integrity and that makes Leary a pitiable fellow rather than a contemptible one.
As for the supposedly misanthropic manner in which the host of smaller characters are presented, here again, I disagree. These smaller characters are caricatures but they do not serve to accentuate the supposedly idealized character of Father James. I suspect that these smaller characters exist, as I attempted to explain in my response to Dr. MacLeod, so as to manifest a sort of contemporary or historical challenge facing the Catholic Church. In that sense, the development or roundedness of each character is less important than how each character serves thematically. The rich man could represent greed; the flirtatious woman, sexual dysfunction; the aged writer, anachronism; the would-be killer, sexual abuse; the doctor, atheism …
I do not see these caricatures as a weakness of the story. While the characterization of such persons can reduce the sort of emphatic response a viewer might ordinarily give, these characters have been intentionally crafted as such. Before critiquing the film as a result, the question worthy of asking surrounds why the director has chosen to present his characters in the way he did.
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