Carter: Something along the lines of: “Damn, that was a good movie.” I was slightly stunned when I walked out of the theatre.
Brandon: I would agree that it’s one of the best movies of this summer, but it has been a weak summer. It has very good moments, especially the opening, and gorgeous cinematography, but the film felt a little unfocused once it was over. I’m not entirely sure what McDonaugh was doing. It’s really great though, much better than a lot of films I’ve seen recently.
Carter: I interpreted the film simply as a character study of Father James. It was simply the individual trials and tests of faith that he had to endure that particular week. It doesn’t necessarily have or needs to have a point beyond that.
Brandon: Calvary is such an artificially constructed universe that I find it hard to take as merely a character study. The film opens with Father, played brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson, in a confession booth. A man tells Father that the man was molested by a priest as a child. Immediately, McDonaugh links priesthood and sin. Further, the whole film seems to question if the priest, good or not, is the biggest sinner of us all. Priests implore adults, through guilt, to believe in a theoretical higher power who allows such a horrible events as this. I’m not sure the whole film sticks to this notion, as in parts belief in a higher power is validated, but I think it’s worth noting.
Carter: I think maybe you’re not making the distinction between the Church and the priest. Yes, the Church can be corrupt, and some of the constituents of it have certainly done terrible things. The film does not disguise that. However, that does not mean all priests are sinners. Father James certainly is not. It seems to me like McDonaugh was attempting to equate Father James with Christ, enduring the punishment for the sins of others despite not committing any himself.
Brandon: Is it not a sin to commit your life to supporting and honoring a supposed divine presence that stands for the molestation of children in its name? I think this is the kind of question Father James grapples with in Calvary. I think he may feel guilty for being a priest. I’m uncertain of McDonaugh’s intentions but I’m under the impression he may be juxtaposing the “sinful” with pure Father James because he wants Father James and the audience to see that the deeper sinner is the one guilting those around him.
Carter: I think what we are seeing here, and what will apply to any audience that goes to see it, is that one’s reaction to a film intertwined as closely with the Church and faith as this will be inevitably colored by one’s opinion of that faith. This is not a bad thing, in fact I think its great that we can talk so openly and criticize faith. However, it makes objective analysis difficult. But I think purely from a cinematic perspective this film is wonderful. The actors, especially Gleeson, do a wonderful performance, and like you said earlier, the film is beautifully shot. Although, I may be slightly biased because of my love of Irish culture.
Brandon: I can’t completely agree that one’s reaction is simply colored by their previously held beliefs. This isn’t a broad film about religion, it very starkly opens by making the viewer confront the molestation of children by priests. The more complicated whole of the film is going to bring out one’s own opinion, but I think it slants in one direction (emphasis on slant, it does provide a counterpoint). I wonder if you’ve seen The Guard? I found McDonaugh’s previous film much more clear and focused, not to mention both profound and tremendously enjoyable. Calvary is definitely a different experience but I found it to be a letdown which is why I’m a little more negative than I ought to be towards the film.
Carter: I have sadly not seen The Guard, but I know I need to get on that because of how important it is to Irish cinema. However, from what I understand about it, it sounds like quite a different film than Calvary. Although I understand what you mean by being let down by a director you expected more off; I felt the same way about Darren Aronofsky and Noah.
Brandon: Well, there’s no better way to highlight how accomplished Calvary is, at least in part, than by putting it side by side with Noah.
Carter: Oh, now that’s not fair at all.
Brandon Grade: B+
Carter Grade: A