Films and religion have always been a match made in heaven,
no pun intended, for example the historic and sometimes epic religious dramas from the Golden Age of Hollywood like “The Song of Bernadette” (1946) or “Ben-Hur” (1959). But we can find Holiness in different genres of films, because the definition of the term means “the state of being holy” and not only religion provides that state of the being. Music, art, literature, love, lust can make us transcend in a equal state of holiness.
The list of films that follow below are just a tiny representation from the vast world of Cinema of the term “Holiness”.
LAZZARO FELICE, Alice Rohrwacher, 2018
Alice Rohrwacher’s third film is full of magic. There is magic in Lazzaro’s voice and eyes. There is magic in the countryside that surrounds everybody. There is magic in the air in the form of a piece of music composed by Bach.
“Lazzaro Felice “ is the tale of Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) a boy so good he looks stupid who meets Tancredi (Luca Chikovani), the son of Marchesa Alfonsina de Luna (Nicoletta Braschi), queen of cigarette.
Tancredi asks Lazzaro to help him orchestrate his own kidnapping in the isolated pastoral village of Inviolata, where Lazzaro works for the Marchesa.
The peculiar and precious friendship between the two boys will transport Lazzaro through time, from the rural village of the past to the city in the modern world.
MOTHER!, Darren Aronofsky, 2017
Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with Him (Javier Barden) and their relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home. This is the main plot of “mother!”, but of course the film is much more.
It’s a film full of symbolism and, as with most of Aronofosky’s work, you either love it or hate it.
For some critics it’s the most Christian mainstream film since “The Passion of the Christ” with all its Creation allegory. For others Jennifer Lawrence’s character represents Mother Earth assaulted by the modern world in the second half of the film. What’s the real meaning behind the film? The answers is in the audience’s mind.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Norman Jewison, 1973
Rock and Religion has always be a great couple, no wonder a rock opera based on the last six days of Jesus life was the natural thing to do in 1970, when it was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice.
The Broadway show debuted the year after the concept album and in 1973 Norman Jewison directed the film version starring Ted Neeley as Jesus and Carl Anderson as Judas.
There are no spoken lines, everything is sung. Filmed mainly in Israel , “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a powerful film and one of the best known musicals (even If it’s actually a Rock Opera) in the world.
VELVET GOLDMINE, Todd Haynes, 1998
The Rise and Fall of a Rock Messiah. Sounds familiar? In 1972 David Bowie created the first of many masterpieces, the concept glam rock album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. In 1998 Todd Haynes decided to work on a film based on Bowie and on his first “mask”, but Bowie himself disliked the idea and threatened to sue so the script was changed.
In reality, every Bowie fanatics will spots many references to the English star and some of his famous friends. No original music by Bowie was allowed to be used, so a soundtrack composed of new Bowie inspired and original glam era songs was created.
“Velvet Goldmine” is a film about religion, the kind of religion that emerged in the 50s with Elvis and in the 60s with The Bealtes. The adoration of an Idol. It’s also a film about a bisexual love story and the consciousness of sexuality. A great cast (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ewan McGregor, Christina Bale, Toni Colette), a great soundtrack and a great director. What more can you ask for?
SILENCE, Martin Scorsese, 2016
Two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Drive) travels from Portugal to Japan in the 17th-century to spread Christianity in the country and find their missing mentor (Liam Neeson).
The two priest are a light in the dark lives of the the members of the Japanese Catholic Church, that at the time were hiding from persecution since Catholicism was outlawed and the presence of representatives of the faith was forbidden.
The film is based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo. Scorsese, who also directed in 1988 “The Last Temptation of Christ”, made a work of art full of faith struggle, and anguish. Whether we agree or not with his point fo view on God and Christianity, we can’t but just be immersed in the film from the first frame to the last one.
BLACK NARCISSUS, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947
Isolation, exoticism, lust, female sexual desire and repression all encapsulated in an technicolor dream. These are the elements of “Black Narcissus” by the famous English directors duo Powell/Pressburger (“The Read Shoes”).
Extraordinary themes for a film released in 1947 that charts the opening of a convent of nuns in the Himalayan mountains.
Starring Deborah Kerr as Mother superior Sister Clodagh and Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth, a nun that becomes possessed by her lust for for Mr Dean (David Farrar), an Englishman living the area. “Balck Narcissus” is a very modern film with the peculiar to have being filmed over 70 years ago.
A selection by Nicola Casadei Della Chiesa