It is the fundamental crisis of every life: in its beginning is the beginning of its end. Every relationship, every project; everything that is built, created, or born has within it the seeds of its own death. In Light from Light (2019, for rent here), it is like a refrain: everything ends.
If you spent any amount of time in what used to be called “Christian Bookstores,” you might have seen—in the alcoves with the cassette and CD demo listening stations—two-column posters that said “Try If You Like,” listing “secular” bands on one side and sound-alike “Christian” bands on the other.
Two weeks ago, when I wrote about The Seventh Seal, I had one kind of response to it. Kyle Smith (and his commenters) at National Review had a very different response. Over the past year, people have had strikingly opposite reviews of movies like Joker, The Irishman, A Hidden Life, and Parasite. No doubt preference and taste account for some of those differences. Probably the egalitarian and democratic nature of the internet accounts for a few more (as “reviewing” movies is not limited to experts). When it comes to classic movies—cult or otherwise—some of it is inevitably nostalgia. But in terms of my own feelings about movies, I am more and more convinced that current circumstances play a determinative role in the experience of watching something.
In Georges Bernanos’ 1926 novel Under the Sun of Satan (Sous le soleil de Satan), Mr Malorthy is described as knowing “very little about that superior form of cheek which the clever call cynicism.” Today cynicism seems like just about the only stance left for anyone to take. There is very little room, it seems, for the sincere and the unironic.
After our last episode of Saints and Cinema, where we talked a little bit about movies for watching during a pandemic, one of our brothers commented that The Seventh Seal was the best plague movie. I had watched three or four Ingmar Bergman movies in the past year, but I had held out on The Seventh Seal.
In Coronatide, more than one industry is suffering because people cannot gather together in one place. So movie theaters, especially independent or art-house theaters, are trying to figure out how to stay afloat. One way is by offering “virtual theaters” for films that otherwise would be available only in person in a theater. Last weekend, Alissa Wilkinson offered a list of films that could be watched in virtual theaters, through sites like Film Movement.
One of those films is the Polish film Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało),
There are movies for certain times, and there are times for certain movies. Terrence Malick is definitely a “certain times” filmmaker. You can’t scroll through your social media while watching one of his films. And I’m no Malick expert, but you don’t have to watch much to know that he’s doing something unlike most of what is available. He’s sometimes derided as too arty, too poetic, too philosophical. And it’s unfortunate that many will be put off from watching because of the three-hour run time.