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I'm looking for nuanced, morally worthwhile movies that are critical of church leaders or representatives without descending into full-fledged caricature / stereotyping, church-bashing, or faith-bashing (if they were actually somehow faith-affirming that would be even better).

Examples of such films might include three titles that came up on the Magdalene Sisters thread, The Mission, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Andrei Rublev.

Another example might be The Apostle, although for my present purposes what would be most helpful to me would be films that (a) skewer not just hypocritical individuals but groups or institutions, and/or (cool.gif are Catholic-themed rather than non-Catholic themed.

Even so, The Apostle isn't wholly irrelevant. In fact, it touches on a tertiary criterion: It would also be helpful to find films more contemporary in subject matter than the three mentioned above.

Any thoughts?

Yes, this relates to Magdalene Sisters.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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The Third Miracle (1999) might fall into the category you describe.

Dir. Agnieszka Holland, starring Ed Harris, Anne Heche, & Armin Mueller-Stahl.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Perhaps You Can Count on Me. Laura Linney's pastor struck me at the time I saw it as flawed but not entirely bad. Granted, the film is not specifically about clergy/the church, but her counseling sessions with him play a major role in the story.

--Teresa

There are stories of coincidence and chance, of intersections and strange things told, and which is which nobody knows; and we generally say, "Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn't believe it." --from Magnolia
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The somewhat ambivalent portrayal of a certain priest in A Clockwork Orange might fit into this category somewhere. To quote what I have posted elsewhere:

Second, it is fitting that the priest should be the one to complain that Alex no longer has the capacity for true "moral choice", but it is somewhat ironic that the priest should also complain that Alex is being guided by "self-interest", since the very first time we see the priest, he is preaching a thunderous fire-and-brimstone sermon in a clear attempt to appeal to the self-interest of the prisoners there. Presumably there is a better way to get good behaviour out of people than to appeal to their fear of pain, but I'm not sure we ever see such a way, in this film.

And for some reason I'm also vaguely recalling how Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin showed a priest holding a crucifix, which I guess was supposed to show how the church was complicit in the evils of the Russian state, or something.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Oh, yes. Italian For Beginners depicts two extremes, though not Catholic ones.

Chocolat? Mean Streets does not depict the Church, per ce, but Keitel's faith is a major part of his inner conflicts over his girlfriend and his friendships. The most nuanced Friar Tuck that I have seen is in the Patrick Bergin version of Robin Hood (he's also my favorite Robin). Having been cast out of his priory, Tuck is forced to support himself by raising and eating chickens so he can fashion relics out of the chicken bones (in his first scene, he offers Robin a toe of St. Peter, I believe). He is quite the swordsman and stares into a fisheye lense saying, "Welcome to Hell!" as he dispatches a bad guy. That comes off as cartoonish here, but not on screen. There is quite a bit to the guy. These are memorable extremes. Of course the complicity of the local clergy is a factor in all versions of Robin Hood on screen.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Although it may toe the line of caricature, how about Ladyhawke? There's a really wicked priest who seems to think he can do no wrong, and then there's a fallen alcoholic priest who knows he's a wreck, confesses his weakness, and becomes a loyal friend to help undo the evil that's been done. Granted, it's an adventure movie, but one that maintains some respect for religion even if its villain is a priest.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Do documentaries count?

The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Hell House are both critical but remain quite human in their approach and retain an honest core.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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The Eyes of Tammy Faye ....

What an intriguing flick that one is, eh stef? Certainly caused me to recognize my own pre-judgement of Tammy Faye.

As for other clergy, I think of the Mother Superior in AGNES OF GOD, who ultimately proves to be a flawed person, but is treated utterly sympathetically. (Whether the film is "morally worthwhile," you'll have to be the judge. We staged the play at my theatre, and one Catholic board member was thrilled, citing it as her favourite play, while one Catholic actress refused a role in the play because she felt it mocked her church.)

The two priests in MASS APPEAL are both very human, but both treated with respect, I'd say.

(I'd add my "amen" to THIRD MIRACLE, as well.)

Ron

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I'm looking for nuanced, morally worthwhile movies that are critical of church leaders or representatives without descending into full-fledged caricature / stereotyping, church-bashing, or faith-bashing (if they were actually somehow faith-affirming that would be even better).

Well, apart from the cheesy soundtrack and the fact that it is clearly a Hollywood production, I thought that Ladyhawke was rather honorable towards God, and even the Catholic church, while, er, "criticizing" a local bishop.

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Jesus of Montreal?

Also, I don't know if you get it over there but there was a British comedy programme called Father Ted who eponymous & hapless hero was a priest to the Parish on a small island in Ireland, along with two fellow priest - the young & unbelievably dumb Dougal & the old and usually very drunk Father Jack.

Very very funny, and although they expected it to upset many Catholics, most of them were its biggest fans, seeing it as unerringly inaccuate in a overblown kind of way (my Mum's family were all brought up as Catholics, my Granfather was a papal knight, and my uncle used to be a priest so they should know).

Matt

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At Play in the Fields of the Lord has a variety of clergy to look at, those who struggle, those who use faith as a cover for their cynicism, those who care but may or may not have faith. The Catholic priest is the one who seems to be as coming across is most sincere and honest, even though his faith may be the most difficult to define.
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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AlanW wrote:

: As I recall, the newer Les Miserables films have both corrupt and holy

: clerical characters... (Of course, the Charles Laughton version is a *bit*

: out of touch).

Really? In what way? I watched several film adaptations of this story while preparing for the Liam Neeson / Geoffrey Rush film that came out a few years back, and my impression was that the Fredric March / Charles Laughton version was the best, or at least my personal favorite -- the fact that it was produced during the Great Depression certainly gives it more weight, inasmuch as it all begins with the plight of a starving man, and if anything, that would make the film more IN touch, wouldn't it?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Oh, I was also going to mention, Black Narcissus might fit in this thread, too. I don't know if nuns count as "clergy", but since the impetus for this thread is a film about nuns anyway ... We had at least two threads on this film at the old board, linked here:

powell & pressburger | Black Narcissus

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 5 months later...

To hijack a runout thread:

What films would have the most positive view of the church? A version of Les Miserables might be up there, but what others, especially in the last few years?

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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The Third Miracle is what immediately comes to mind, particularly in that a hard and unsympathetic process redeems two cynical characters (Ed Harris and Anne Heche). I'd like to come up with a protestant example, but am drawing a blank right now.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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BethR and Rich Kennedy both mentioned The Third Miracle which despite its flaws is a powerful movie about faith. I love Father Frank Shore's (Harris) honest struggle with his faith, the way he desperately wants to believe but because of the nature of his job - outing fake miracle claims - he has dobuts. Harris's portrayal of a man torn between what he sees and what he wants to believe is beautifully played.

I'm looking for nuanced, morally worthwhile movies that are critical of church leaders or representatives without descending into full-fledged caricature / stereotyping, church-bashing, or faith-bashing (if they were actually somehow faith-affirming that would be even better).

Well, it's not nuanced, it's not morally worthwhile, but it does affirm faith in it's own way (oh and it's Catholic based) so how about the Kevin Smith film, Dogma?

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Well, it's not nuanced, it's not morally worthwhile, but it does affirm faith in it's own way (oh and it's Catholic based) so how about the Kevin Smith film, Dogma?

I like this film myself and find its message to have range beyond the Catholic Church. The quasi theological debates between the archangels have the cast of jaded theologians. The "Buddy Jesus" gimics and the clueless archbishop's arguments have something to say about the excesses of the seeker church movement. SPOILERS Fiorentino's pregnancy is one of the most moving acts of grace I've seen on film. Maybe I'm not the spiritual rock I sometimes flatter myself into thinking that I am, but Dogma reminds me of my life: in the midst of a lot of trivia and sludge, bits of grace and spiritual value/truth.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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The film that immediately comes to mind is "A Man For All Seasons." Thomas More is harshly critical of the church hierarchy, even tho he is bound to the church--he even had some choice lines, can't remember them offhand,tho.

Perhaps also "Sister Act."

I second "Black Narcissus", but I believe that's clear from the posts earlier linked to.

How about films where the central protagonist is a noted religious figure, positively portrayed, going against the usual religious figures? I'm thinking of "Entertaining Angels: the Dorothy Day Story" and "Romero".

Lightweight films that I believe that is critical on the borderline offensive level is "Harold and Maude", along with "Foul Play", both written by the same screenwriter.

Hope this helps...

Nick

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Incidentally, I can't help but think of "The Original Kings of Comedy" and "Barbershop"--how criticisms of the black culture are considered racist if a white person says them, but if a black person says it, it's okay, even funny. (Imagine a white person saying Cedric the Entertainer's speech in Barbershop).

In much the same way, I think Christians, and Catholics, tend to be very watchful and weary when a non-Christian spars against the clergy, because it has been our experience that much of it is biased, or misunderstood. Even when a self-proclaimed Christian does so, we tend to question his/her politics (is s/he a liberal? a member of the Voice of the "Faithful"? an ...*sigh*... Episcopalian?) And yet, when a recognized, respected, conservative Christian comes down with harsh words against a clergy (and it's done respectfully), he may actually be saying much of the same diatribe, but will only then be hearing the message.

Kinda makes ya think...

Nick

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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 Even when a self-proclaimed Christian does so, we tend to question his/her politics (is s/he a liberal?  a member of the Voice of the \"Faithful\"?
I thought liberal and voice of the faithful were synonymous.
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Heh, heh. Play nice you guys.FWIW, I'm becoming an ...*sigh*... episcopalian. Though Father Kelly (the first guy I've ever let myself call "father" other than Dad) says we are, if this makes any sense, a "bible believing, evangelical, anglican-catholic" parish.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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