The Rev. Rob Baldwin, pastor, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.:
There are so many great movies to choose from, but certainly one of the more thought-provoking films with religious undertones is “Jesus of Montreal” (1989).
Lothaire Bluteau stars as Daniel, an avante garde actor living in Montreal who is approached by a local Roman Catholic Church to revise their Passion Play production during Holy Week. Together with several of his friends, Daniel begins to explore the history of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
As you might imagine, the production is not without controversy. Slowly, however, the troupe’s lives begin to parallel Jesus’ and the disciples’ own. I do not want to ruin the ending, but the final minutes of the film are wonderful and well worth the wait.
In addition to its wit and humor, “Jesus of Montreal” engages in an examination of some of the brutal realities of Jesus’ death a good decade before Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” as well as questions raised by contemporary Biblical scholarship regarding the historical Jesus. The troupe’s own spiritual journey through the skepticism and critical examination of the Passion provides a road map for churches looking to reach out to an unchurched but well-educated community.
Before you view the film in your adult Sunday School class a word of warning: the film does feature brief nudity and is in French with English subtitles. “Jesus of Montreal” was nominated in 1989 for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
— Send e-mail to the Rev. Rob Baldwin at email@example.com.
The Rev. David Rivers, senior pastor, First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.:
As I pondered this question, I noticed that many of the movies I watch have religious undertones. Some are in your face and purposeful while others leave you ruminating on the story line. If I had to pick just one, I would choose “The Book of Eli.”
Set in post-apocalyptic times, Eli is called to carry a vital book that has immeasurable value. This book from the previous world is believed to have all the answers humanity needs. Therefore, they will go to any length to get it, including violence.
The power of the movie is in the internalization of the call of Eli. Through the toughest of circumstances, his single minded focus and care for this book resounds. As one waits for the final scenes to see this ancient book opened, a surprise erupts. This book, the one that all people so desire, is in fact empty.
Eli has carried a copy of the Bible in which when finally opened, is blank. No writing or pictures, just dots. And the value of this sacred book is not the book; rather, the value is in the one who carries it. Eli gives up his copy of the Bible for it is not needed. Internalized and memorized, the final scenes reveal Eli reciting it verbatim to the awaiting group who desire to restore the world.
The power of this movie is the deep-rootedness of the text in Eli’s life. In a world in which we can make the Bible an idol, the way in which he internalizes the scriptures stands in contrast to those who want it to use to control others. They believe the book has all power and answers. And yet, when faced with empty pages, their demise is clear. Which makes me ponder, how do we use these sacred scriptures?
— Send email to David Rivers at firstname.lastname@example.org.