Tag: Fanny and Alexander

Why Fanny and Alexander is my new favorite movie – Part 2!

Last week I started writing a big ol’ post about how Fanny and Alexander was my new favorite movie of all time. I thought I might be able to get it all into one post but the task quickly grew a little out of control and I only ended up covering about half of the greatness of the film in 1,500 words. So here’s another attempt at it, call it the second half and hopefully it won’t turn into a three part series, though that probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Let’s get this party train moving.

Last time around I left off with the very real threat of Edvard, the evil town bishop and new father for the titular children, demonstrating the full force of his terror with physical and emotional abuse towards Alexander which led to a visit from his previous victims while Alexander was trapped in the attic of his dreary house. With all of that in mind, let’s visit in on what his mother, Emilie, was doing in the meantime. When she married Edvard he forced her to cut off all communication with her dead husband’s family, the warm and friendly, if a little odd, Ekdahls. A matriarchal family, Helena embodies all the grandmotherly characteristics one could want. She’s off in her summer home and worrying about her daughter-in-law since she hadn’t seen her or her grandkids for a long time. While the rest of her family is off on an afternoon boat trip, she gets a visit from Emilie who has escaped her imposing husband for a few days. They discuss the problems Emilie is having and whether or not the children are safe (hint: they’re not) and Emilie shares a new wrinkle, her pregnancy. This meeting is important for setting up the endgame of the film, a clever heist pulled off by family friend Isak Jacobi.

This is another important location in the film, one of four which go a long way towards establishing the mood of the scenes that take place therein. Here we have another opulent location, this one set in clean whites surrounded by lush greens which perfectly evoke the spring setting. Still, it’s raining outside and there’s clearly an air of melancholy permeating the vacation home. It’s also the location of a visit from Oscar, Helena’s dead son. He is decidedly quiet through the visit which allows Helena to talk to the audience about how she’s feeling and what is happening with his widowed wife. Ghost-Oscar repeatedly visits his family members – mostly Alexander – to remind them that there was once something good in the world, and that the good could return. His most important visit happens in the fourth location, after Isak Jacobi pulls off a spectacular (and supernatural) “kidnapping” of the kids away from Edvard’s evil grasp. They stay for a while at the Jacobi house, a weird and wonderful repository for stagecraft and semi-religious artifacts. Here Oscar’s visit feels entirely natural, as if the magic of the surroundings summon him from beyond as much as Alexander’s yearnings for his father.

Oscar is an embodiment of the question Bergman asks throughout his career (or, at least over the two movies of his I’ve seen, but I have it on pretty good authority that he continues the trend), that of the existence of God. Oscar basically is a kind of god, a creator who projects from his own mind a view of the world for others to step into lasting at least the duration of a play, if not longer in the audience’s mind. Alexander understands this implicitly and gawps at even the rehearsal of such an act early in the film. After Oscar dies Alexander becomes a liar, a creator in his own small way before Edvard attempts to take that expression of creativity away along with the books and stuffed animals. Even in punishment, though, Alexander’s creativity is manifest as he conjures the ghosts of Edvard’s first set of children. And when placed into the great workshop that is the Jacobi house his imagination is allowed to run wild, first seeing his father in his typical all white ghost garb then falling back in fright from a giant puppet version of God operated by one of Jacobi’s nephews. It’s pretty clearly a puppet after the first few seconds of screen time but it’s a darn convincing one and Alexander’s questioning of God has opened him to the potential veracity of this appearance. And really, wouldn’t it? If you were magically rescued from a horrible step-father by an enigmatic old Jewish man and then visited late at night by the ghost of your beloved father while thinking deeply about the existence of God wouldn’t a larger-than-life marionette version of God, full throated and with accompanying giant footstep sounds, feel real? An answer to a probing young man made of wood and string and theater tricks is actually closer to “real” for Alexander than a cloud-borne be-cloaked guy with a beard. The Jacobi house is full of reassuring and scary answers to the questions Alexander and the audience have been asking for the previous four hours.

Jacobi himself soothes the kids to sleep with a parable that must have been the inspiration for the Coen brothers’ own tale of religion gone right and wrong, A Serious Man. Stories are the ultimate power in Bergman’s world. Religious tracts, classics of literature, fairy tales, or just comforts and tales of good days past, the story’s ability to transport literally or figuratively is demonstrated over and over again. The performance of those stories allows others to come along for the ride. A chair becomes a precious heirloom because Oscar is so convincing. Hamlet enables Oscar to return for guidance and warnings like the titular hero’s own father. A discussion between a mother and her dead son puts the both of them at ease and on the right course of action. A lie becomes the truth thanks to Jacobi’s magic.

Fanny and Alexander is, in part at least, a magical realist tale which allows it to operate on this theoretical level with great power and flexibility. Shelter is found in the comforts of family and stories. At the end of the film, after everybody is rescued from their captivity and two babies born Gustav Adolf Ekdahl gives a speech that echoes his brother Oscar’s speech from the beginning of the film. In fact, much of the same audience is in attendance and there are even stronger familial bonds forged in the tribulations surrounding Emilie, whose return to the theater company her husband had once run is welcomed and celebrated as much as the newborn children on this occasion. Gustav implores his audience, “Therefore let us be happy while we are happy. Let us be kind, generous, affectionate and good. It is necessary and not at all shameful to take pleasure in the little world.” The little world of family, the little world of friends and co-workers, the little world of stories and performances. All are celebrated in Bergman’s garden of Eden, returned to its former glory after a brief fall. As a capper (well, nearly) to his career, Bergman at once justifies his work and indulges further in the escapist capacity of film. He celebrates, too, cinema’s power to put us through the ringer and come out the other side as changed as the characters we follow. Escapism is important, so is the didactic ability inherent in stories.

Why Fanny and Alexander is my new favorite movie

I had all these grand ideas of presenting my new top 100 movies list in a long and drawn out way, building anticipation and excitement and all that jazz until the reader just couldn’t wait to know which movie of all the ones I’d talked about was number one. Would Magnolia retain its title, or would There Will Be Blood swoop back in and reclaim its rightful throne? Or would it be some other movie entirely, either newly watched this year or newly appreciated (Blade Runner, maybe, thanks to praise from awesome Swedish blogger Jessica over at The Velvet Cafe)? Well, nearly a month after watching that movie up there in the title of this post I can’t stop thinking about it and I can’t wait to talk about it some more. So here it is, a whole post gushing about Fanny and Alexander, my new favorite movie of all time.

It’s kind of funny (or perhaps I’m just clever) that I mentioned Jessica in the previous paragraph, as her hometown is featured heavily in this wonderful film about growing up and mothers and fathers and faith and evil and family and the power of stories. Maybe the strongest single element of the Fanny and Alexander is the world it creates. It all begins as Alexander, our main character, is left seemingly alone at home. We’re introduced to his opulent surroundings which at once indicate that his family is rich and that they’re also quite good at making the ostentatious feel comforting. It’s a warm place, though you can also tell that it’s chilly outside. The house is a protective cocoon which fosters all kinds of imaginative playing as Alexander finds ways to entertain himself. I, too, spent much of my childhood making my own house into a personal playground, and I, too, sometimes imagined scary sights out of everyday object. Here it’s a statue that has probably faded into being just a part of the scenery for Alexander until his imagination sparks it to life. Creepy stuff, and table setting by director Ingmar Bergman to prepare us for what will come later. But then our fear is wiped away as Christmas comes.I watched the full TV version of Fanny and Alexander. It is preferred by Bergman himself, who had to go in and cut out nearly two hours of footage to get down to a still-long three hours for theatrical presentation. Bergman himself stated that “with each cut I reduced the quality of [his] work,” (Images). It feels true, though I have not yet gone back to watch the theatrical version. The full TV version dedicates the entire first “episode” to the prologue I discussed above and the subsequent Christmas celebrations. This is the first bit of evidence for the film’s masterpiece status, and it’s a large bit. Christmas on film has often been warm but never this warm. We begin with each of the family members separate, going about their last duties on Christmas Eve. One brother is wrapping up a good season at his theater company he shares with his wife and kids (the titular characters). He gives a speech to his players and thanks them for participating in his “little world” that gives the audience a chance to get away from their larger concerns. This dichotomy between the little world created by stories and family as a protector against the big, harsh world is echoed by his brother in the final act of the movie after all of the bad stuff has happened. Still the little world remains, “a little room of orderliness, routine, care and love.”

Yet another brother closes up his restaurant while the matron of the family prepares an elaborate dinner, or guides her maids in preparing it. She’s visibly old and kind of broken down, but when she speaks her spirit is lively and strong. Once a stage actress in the theater group her son now runs, she was famous, and through her the family made a lot of money. Yes, it’s a bourgeois paradise of intellectuals and artists, and that might throw off some viewers from initially connecting to these characters. Once the Christmas celebrations begin in earnest, though, it’s hard to not get sucked in. Taking up a full hour and a half, the Christmas feast and post-dinner activities give way to bedtime for the kids and a splintering for the adults. Some relish in secret dalliances, others fight over their marriage. A comedown, to be sure, from the delightful Christmas scenes, but an important one which sets up each of the characters and enriches them into being real people. The relationships are all complex and realistic, which again helps the later fantasy scenes feel more real.

The most important scene in this first act is one which reveals how kids are drawn in by stories and audiences are made to believe in anything if the storyteller is any good. I’ve included the scene above so that you can watch it for yourself. Fanny and Alexander’s father comes into the kids’ room to scold them for still being awake at such a late hour. He sees that they aren’t finished celebrating and decides to tell them a story about a seemingly ordinary chair which is, in actuality, possessed of supernatural powers. An invented fairy tale, it bewitches the kids instantly and sends them to sleep with a little magic. Of course, all cannot remain so sweet, and the next episodes put one giant obstacle in their path.

Before his untimely death, Alexander’s father (Oscar) rehearses a (not-so) new play, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which he was going to play Hamlet’s ghost dad. He has a stroke onstage and is rushed home for medical treatment which doesn’t work. His death sets into motion a series of events which leads to his widow (Emilie) marrying the town’s bishop (Edvard). Edvard is everything that Oscar wasn’t: cold, mean, vengeful, and cruel. It’s clear to see how Emilie could get pulled into his arms, wanting to get as far away as she can from Oscar’s theatricality, but man, it’s also clear how bad of a choice she’s made from the get go. If Bergman weren’t so good at what he does Edvard would be a one dimensional villain like, say, the Emperor from Star Wars, but he’s got depth and a purpose behind him which makes him not only evil but humanly evil. His religious convictions lead him to be ascetic in all undertakings, including child-rearing. When Fanny and Alexander move into his house they aren’t allowed to take any belongings, not even books or clothes. It’s positioned as a new start for them but it’s really a way to indoctrinate them into a particular world-view which would be undermined by any worldly possessions.

Maybe the easiest way to see the differences between Oscar and Edvard other than looking at their characters is to examine their households. One is decadence to the max, a rich, red and gold wonderland which seems like it would be the softest place to exist. There aren’t any sharp edges except on the knives used to cut giant mounds of meat into edible chunks. Contrast that with Edvard’s house run by his shrew of a sister. There the walls are blank and gray, the only books allowed are in the bishop’s personal library, and I’d hazard to say that there won’t be many fairy tales to be found on those shelves. The kids’ room sports a doll-sized replica of the house but even that isn’t enough to make it a fun place to live. In that first scene Alexander’s imagination was spurred by his lavish surroundings, when he moves into Edvard’s house the only inspiration he encounters is for nightmares.

Early on Alexander hears about Edvard’s previous family, how he had them killed through some kind of cosmic force or constant terrorizing. His telling of this story to his young sister and their keeper while Emilie is away enrages Edvard – though he never really shows it – and gives him an opportunity to punish Alexander physically and mentally. Here the insidious nature of Edvard’s evil is in full evidence. He’s all grim smiles and lengthy speeches about taking responsibility without any real display of caring for the young boy or how he grows up. Alexander does learn from this, of course, but it’s not the lesson Edvard was teaching. Instead Alexander learns that sometimes being right is no match for wrong people with more power. He is sent to the attic for the night as additional punishment where he encounters the creepy ethereal ghosts of the bishop’s previous kids. They taunt him for messing with their father, which is supremely unsettling as they must have been getting treated similarly when they were “alive”. If we take their appearance to be real in the world of the movie, it’s the first really supernatural occurrence with any kind of repercussions for the characters, though they could just as easily be hallucinations brought on by Alexander’s lack of food and mental torment earlier in the day. Bergman won’t commit one way or the other, so we’re left to our own interpretations. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I think that’ll do for now. Consider this part 1 of 2, the second of which will tackle the second half of the movie/series. If you haven’t already seen this movie, take the time to watch it before coming back. It’s only 5 hours and in Swedish, what’s not to like?

Top 100 Films List (2013): Movies about Brothers and Sisters

Time to come down to earth a little bit. After the portion of this list presented earlier in the week about God(s), my focus now turns to brothers and sisters. I have one of each and the relationships that form between brothers and sisters are some of the weirdest and sometimes strongest that we build in our lives. This is our family, and different though we may be, we are generally forced to live with each other for the developmental periods of our lives. Neither my brother nor my sister are very much like me, though I can see myself in facets of each of them. It’s this relationship that fascinates me and forms the basis of this part of the list. Some of these films will just be about brothers, or just about sisters, but they’re all about how these people that we don’t choose to affiliate ourselves with have a profound and lasting influence on our lives. And now, the poll.

Now that the voting is out of the way (you did vote for your favorite, right?), let’s get into the meat of it all. I don’t think I included any cannibal brothers or sisters here, but let’s start with the more strained relationships. Some of these are small in scope, take the snowball fight in Where the Wild Things Are as an example of a very minor but very important scene of brother and sister fighting. It’s a scene that provides a very grounded basis for the rest of the film, and also a scene likely acted out by every brother and sister in the known universe. A young boy spies on his older sister and her friends as she leaves the house to hang out. He goes into attack mode and tosses some snowballs at them while they are getting into a beat up old car and when she and her friends retaliate it all seems like a good time. That is, until one friend goes too far and jumps on top of the snow cave the brother built. What was fun turns instantly into a sad, angry scene as the brother gathers up some snow and throws it on her bed after she leaves. It’s almost too real a scene to be included in a fiction movie, but it’s that scene that sets in motion the rest of the film’s fantastical-if-sadly-strange wonderland. There’s a similar scene in Punch-Drunk Love, where Barry, a weird and lonely man, is invited to have dinner with his multitude of sisters. What starts as a nice, if forced, dinner conversation turns into a typical rage fit for Barry after all of his sisters pile on and pester him about his weirdness. It’s the ugly side of sibling relationships, but they do exist.

Even twins have antagonistic tendencies. Adaptation is a weird movie about a weird man trying to write a weird movie about a weird book. He becomes a character in his own film, and his twin (who doesn’t exist in real life) tries to be like him but fails spectacularly, writing all the wrong things and falling into all the screenwriting traps he is trying to avoid. Melancholia features, in its first half, the wedding of a young depressed girl. Her sister is organizing everything and as the wedding falls apart thanks to the bride’s depression, the sister gets more and more exasperated. All of these sibling rivalry type relationships are pretty obvious in their construction, but I think they say important things about the way we treat those that are related to us. Perhaps the biggest, and certainly the loudest, example of this is from The Lion in Winter, a movie based entirely around familial bickering over important and not so important things. On the important side, which of three brothers will take over as King of England, on the not so important side, which of the brothers is loved more by which parent. And then, to take it one step further, Halloween features an older brother who goes crazy and kills one sister and then spends the rest of the film trying to kill another. This relationship isn’t revealed until the second film, so it’s a bit of a cheat, but it’s too fun to keep off this portion of the list.

Of course, not all brothers and sisters want to kill each other. Sometimes they’re the only source of hope and the only people one can rely on in rough situations. The Night of the Hunter features a ferocious performance by Robert Mitchum as an evil step-father who tries to extract the location of stolen money hidden by the father of the young brother and sister at the center of the film. His evilness is elaborated upon as the film goes on, which only serves to bring the two kids closer together as everybody around them that should be their protectors are revealed to be ineffective.  The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are a little more obviously and immediately life threatening and as such the brother and sister in that film don’t demonstrate much beyond some playful jabs at each other’s nerdiness, and they learn just how resourceful they can be when the other is in danger. The Proposition‘s Australian outlaw brother trio is as messed up as they can be, and yet their relationship grows stronger and deeper the further into trouble they get. The titular family in The Royal Tenenbaums is falling apart and at the outset this movie would seem like it should go more in the first category of unfriendly siblings, but as the film develops the second generation comes together, puts aside their petty fights and hidden jealousies to save their family from dissolution. It’s a group of true and real relationships painted with Wes Anderson’s typical style, which elevates the movie into greatness. Similarly, Pan’s Labyrinth features a girl who’s mother is pregnant, and whose pregnancy is jeopardized by health risks and an evil stepfather (noticing a trend?). At first Ofelia is angry at her soon-to-be-sister for endangering her mother but once she grows up a little she realizes how much this relationship will mean and tries her best to save the recently-born child. Not all fathers must be evil, of course. Terrence Mallick’s The Tree of Life might seem at first to feature an evil father but repeat viewings reveal Brad Pitt’s father to be a loving, flawed human being. Still, the brothers often find themselves uniting against him and going on young boy quests through the wilds of the mid-century mid-west. Fanny and Alexander again features an evil stepfather and a brother and sister who team up to weather any abuse they must endure while their mother fights her own battles against the tyrannical man she married.

Some of the more observant of my readers might notice a few films on this list that seem like they shouldn’t fit the topic at first glance. What brothers or sisters are there in Blade Runner, for example? Well, if you’ll allow, I extend the idea of siblings into friends that have a tighter relationship than the norm. So the similarly created robots in Blade Runner share an impending death and they fight the system that tries to keep them less than human. The World’s End, too, features friends that, at the beginning, have fallen out with each other thanks to the destructive habits of their leader. Still, that leader succeeds in bringing them back together as they fight an evil extraterrestrial threat (and try to drink 12 pints from 12 different pubs at the same time). In Never Let Me Go the nature of the relationship between all of the characters in the film is left a mystery for much of the run time, but their strange situation brings them together and they form bonds that act similarly to the brother and sister relationship. There’s always the other side of that coin, though. The rival magicians in The Prestige know each other so well that they develop a deep jealousy which turns murderous. There Will Be Blood seems like a movie that features a real brother-brother relationship, with the introduction of Henry, a man who says he’s Daniel Plainview’s long lost brother (turns out, no) and the brothers that hate each other, Paul and Eli Sunday. The two young basketball players with dreams of going to the NBA in Hoop Dreams aren’t related by blood, but they nevertheless support and cheer for each other through high and low.

And then there are the siblings torn apart by circumstance. The Mortal Storm begins with a strong family bond which breaks as Hitler declares war on the rest of Europe. The older brothers become surprisingly fascist and leave to join Hitler’s fight while the only sister, the incomparable Margaret Sullavan, stays behind to help her elderly and disgraced father retain some kind of dignity. Later in the film she goes to one of her older brothers to ask for his help in escaping their country for one that has been kept out of the war. The conflict between his duty and his family is strong and quite affecting which, after several rewatches, is elevated to being at least as moving as the love story at the film’s center. Anna Karenina spends the first part of her movie trying to help her lecherous brother through an affair but turns into an adulterer herself as she leaves him to figure out his own issues. The sibling rivalry in City of God gets to quite destructive ends, as one brother tries desperately to stay out of the gangs that rule the slums and the other tries just as hard to get into one, to his ultimate demise. The problem between brother and sister in The Quiet Man isn’t quite life or death. Maureen O’Hara’s crazy older brother is dead set against her betrothal to John Wayne and gets into a hilariously long (in both time and distance senses of the word) fight scene over her. I guess that’s some kind of love. And, though they call themselves a family, the organization in The Godfather is a kind that says it’s all about loyalty at the front and will turn with jealousy at the drop of a hat. The secrets and lies that boil underneath the relationship between the two sisters in A Streetcar Named Desire are what leads to that film’s climactic battle of words.

Brothers and sisters are a strange bunch. Through love and jealousy and hatred and reverence they idolize and vilify each other. A port of refuge in a storm or a strong wind that sets the other adrift, the relationship between siblings, blood or otherwise, is difficult to get right. These 26 movies do, and for that I salute them.

That’s all for now. If you have another movie you like about brothers and sisters, leave a comment for me! If you haven’t voted for your favorite from my list, go do that. And if you’re on Letterboxd (and you should be), check out this list there and be sure to check off all that you have seen. And tune in sometime next week for the next installment of this ongoing series. It’ll be another familial relationship. Or not! Who knows!

Top 100 Films List (2013): Movies about God(s)

Welcome to the first real post about my new top 100 movies list! It’s very exciting, at least to me. The first grouping will be, as the title suggests, movies about God(s). As a not-religious person my interest here is not to affirm my own point of view or force it upon you, but to see how movies about god(s) and religion raise questions that matter deeply to us as humans. How does the presence or lack of a god inform our lives? How do we cope when we try to approach something beyond our understanding? Who do we blame when something goes wrong, or praise when something goes right? Religion has been a large part of our cultural heritage and movies are no different. Without further ado, here are, in alphabetical order, the movies from my top 100 list that are, in some way, about God(s).

Ok, have you voted? That’s a poll, go vote on it! Pick one that is your favorite. Do it!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk a little. First, movies about playing God. We have within us a deep desire to create and specifically to create life. That is often seen as the territory of God or Gods, depending on the creation myth you like best. Through movies we’ve come up with some fantastic creation myths of our own, none better than Jurassic Park. Here’s an example of creating life gone wrong, bringing back what should have been left dead, or at least should have been created with a little more care and foresight. “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” This pretty accurately describes the thought process up to the beginning of the movie as wryly stated by the one and only Jeff Goldblum. Laura Dern counters with the potential plot of the rest of the film, “Dinosaurs eat man … woman inherits the earth.” But Jurassic Park isn’t the only movie about humans trying to reach god-like status as creators of life. Blade Runner, too, concerns itself with the perils of trying to re-create humans and improve upon them. At what point does that creation turn on its creators for being imperfect as some would argue we have done with God? Roy Batty is perhaps the most human character in the film as he struggles with this question, though beneath his synthetic skin an artificial heart beats and a computer thinks. The Truman Show goes on a bit of a different path as a tv producer creates not life but a life for the titular character. Everything is controlled and broadcast for all to see and though it may seem idyllic initially, soon the curated life becomes a prison, which leads the viewer to ask whether or not the same would be the case if we were to know with certainty that our lives are curated in a similar respect.

Some movies warn of the perils of religion and religious thinking. Doubt, for example, presents some obvious issues with the concept of certainty when it comes to things that are immensely complex, whether it be belief in God or the relationship between a man and a boy. That film does a wonderful job of not answering any of the factual questions we have as that would not accurately reflect the situation the characters find themselves in. Haxan: Witchcraft through the Ages is an early documentary that explores the way religion has treated anybody that isn’t normal in the society of the time. Even in 1922 the movie is smart enough to link this bad behavior to the treatment of mental illness in “modern” times, a situation that hasn’t improved as much as it should. In The Wicker Man a Christian detective is brought to an island of pagans to investigate a missing girl. It’s a clash of religious ideas that is as loopy as it is unsettling, with its nude ritual scenes and creepy costumes. Fanny and Alexander is a movie in which an artistic family is subjected to the strict religious rules thanks to a mother’s second marriage. The bishop she marries is one of the greatest screen villains precisely because he is almost always certain he is doing the right thing. The Night of the Hunter has a similar father figure, and though his evil is even more apparent, it is no less scary.

It’s not always so obvious, though, the insidious implications of religion. The Long Day Closes shows a boy struggling with his sexual identity in the face of religious doctrine which states that he is ill-formed. The Seventh Seal demonstrates that life during the Black Plague was a nasty one, and religions reflected and enhanced that nastiness with their own misguided beliefs. In A Serious Man, the Job story from the bible is reinterpreted for the 60’s as a Jewish man’s life is ripped apart in any way possible while his religious leaders offer little comfort. And finally, in There Will Be Blood, capitalism is set against harsh Christianity as two ideals enter and both lose. There is very little up side to either as the deep-seated flaws are laid out in the forms of Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday. Metropolis, too, shows us that economics are nothing to be worshiped.

Of course, God and religion are really just one way of trying to understand things that are bigger than ourselves and beyond our current understandings. As our scientific knowledge grows we answer questions with facts that we had once answered with gods, though new questions always appear in relation to even crazier things that happen in the natural world. Sunshine shows us a man who has lived so close to the sun for so long that he has gone crazy, believing that the sun is God incarnate and that he is an angel sent to destroy humanity. Cloud Atlas has, in one of its stories, a woman who becomes a god-figure thanks to her deeply human act of freeing millions of slaves. How one person can be so good is deified through countless retellings of a story. The Devil’s Backbone shows young orphans as they try to comprehend the insane violence of the Spanish Civil War through an unexploded bomb in the middle of their orphanage and tales of a ghostly kid who will exact revenge. Melancholia is a planet that appears out of nowhere and is on a collision course with the earth. As it nears us, a young woman deals with depression and the pressures of life. The Tree of Life and The Fountain are twins of a sort, both of which examine the role of God in our day to day lives, however mundane or grand they may be.

We also have, in movies, a great way of exploring whether or not God even exists. The Seventh Seal and Doubt ask the question early and often, while movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Fantasia, The Exorcist, and Contact answer the question with a resounding yes, and that God is kinda scary. Fantasia and Throne of Blood explore non-christian religions through sometimes creepy and sometimes glorious imagery. Haxan, too, has a terrifyingly beautiful vision of hell, while Contact‘s heaven might be some distant planet. Holy Motors posits that movies are our new religion where we can make our own heavens and hells and realities. That’s the one that appeals to me most, I think. Cameras and projectors as instruments of revelation. That’s my kind of religion.

That’s enough for this subject, I think. I hope you voted. I’ve compiled this list on Letterboxd as well, so you can check off what you’ve seen. If you have any thoughts on what I’ve shared here, or a movie you think might fit this topic that you love, or anything at all, please leave a comment below! Tune in soon for a new topic of consideration.