Before faith and sin, on the seventh day, God rested, sitting on his couch with no movie to watch yet.
Indeed, it would be 19 centuries after the crucifixion of his son before the Lumière brothers invented the first film projector.
An invention that the two brothers set aside rather quickly convinced that it would not have much of a future.
Poor fools, how wrong they were!
As a matter of fact, in the following decades, cinematographic art quickly became the art form above all others.
An art to tame them all, in the words of the instructions for use of Tolkien’s famous ring of power.
It is no coincidence that every film frame contains something of all other forms of artistic expression.
We have painting and photography, acting and writing, and, with the arrival of sound in the mid-1920s, even music, and song.
But back to today’s topic, religion and consequently its transgressions that all of us sinners commit daily with great enjoyment.
Today’s films deal with faith and sin in very different ways, creating a pretty complete picture of what I think of religion in general.
If it brings peace and happiness to someone’s life, then as far as I’m concerned, then it’s welcome.
But we often see how faith and sin bring out the worst in people, unfortunately not only in movies.
Since this is a controversial topic, I make the sign of the cross, praying not to offend anyone mortally.
1- Disobedience (2017)
We begin our spiritual journey with a movie that contrasts faith with sin by exposing the hypocrisy and intolerance of religion.
The protagonist is a young photographer from New York who left the Jewish community where she grew up.
But when she learns of her father’s death, the girl flies to London to honor him with a final farewell.
Initially, the old neighborhood seems to accept her return detachedly, without particular friendliness or hostility.
The only ones to stand by her during her visit are an old friend and her new husband, an intensely religious man.
He was one of her father’s favorite students and is now one of the most likely candidates to succeed him as a rabbi.
But the real problem is his wife, who is more than just an old friend to the protagonist.
Since they were young, they felt a great attraction that inevitably led to a clandestine lesbian relationship.
This love had been one of the main reasons the girl had left/been kicked out of the community.
After all this time, being close again between the two girls rekindles a passion they can no longer deny.
Unfortunately, the neighborhood is small, and rumors spread quickly when some neighbors discover them in too intimate attitudes.
The gossip quickly leads to a scandal that could also ruin the promising career of the future rabbi.
Warring with the entire congregation, the girl wishes to leave, only this time with the friend she is in love with.
Can love really be a sin?
Besides being the main protagonist of Disobedience, the beautiful and talented Rachel Weisz is also the leading producer.
Indeed, the actress supported this project from the beginning, returning to British roots after her American career.
The story doesn’t directly accuse Orthodox Jews but highlights the difficulty of freedom in a place of such rigid traditions.
Homosexual transgression in today’s world doesn’t cause such a stir, but it’s very different in a small, highly religious community.
Of course, no one forces anyone to stay there, but it’s not fair having to abandon family and lifelong friends.
This is the difference with Rachel McAdams‘s character, who is unwilling and cannot leave everything behind like the protagonist.
The actress plays the best role after her funny movies like My Name Is Tanino and Guy Ritchie‘s Sherlock Holmes.
Their relationship has some lovely and intimate sequences, with a slow seduction that results in some scorching sex scenes.
Finally, in this movie, I enjoyed the Italian-American Alessandro Nivola as the man of faith between the two women of sin.
Initially, he seems the worst of all bigots, obviously feeling betrayed by his wife with an outsider repudiated by all.
However, coming to the final confrontation between the sinners and the community, he will be the only one defending them.
Sebastián Lelio directs the film with decent craft, albeit without particular or memorable directorial ideas.
Nevertheless, the cold and poor photography works, especially in contrast to the warmer moments between the two sinful outcasts.
Disobedience is a merciless look at the world of orthodox Jews, extremely secretive about its culture’s rituals and traditions.
It is a movie that exposes how even today, well beyond 2000, there are still people out there ready to condemn other people’s sins for purely religious reasons.
2- 13 Sins (2014)
From a dramatic movie about the Jewish religion, we now move on to a story where sin takes on a decidedly more capitalistic contour.
The protagonist is an ordinary unemployed man whom lousy luck seems to strike all at once.
The financial problems inexorably mount with a baby coming and a sibling to maintain in a mental institution.
Things get even worse when he loses his already lowly job as a salesman, leaving him penniless in the middle of the street.
However, he receives a phone call on the verge of desperation with a proposal he can’t refuse.
It’s a simple deal: he’ll have to commit a series of pranks, one after the other, gradually winning richer and richer cash prizes.
The early pranks seem simple, rekindling hopes of getting him out of his financial mess.
But very soon, the demands of his principals become more and more insane and bloodthirsty, however, receiving more and more money with their completion.
When these pranks become entirely unacceptable, the man refuses and tries to pull himself out of this bottomless vortex.
He doesn’t realize he’s in a trap because these lunatics threaten his wife, brother, and father in a nursing home.
Then money becomes secondary, possibly making his dear ones die if he refuses to continue the game.
The poor man will eventually find himself fighting against his own family in a sinful escalation of violence and nastiness.
In money we trust
The madness emerges from the heart of darkness of the ordinary man becoming a criminal for the vile money.
Although the theme may seem dark, in reality, we are often closer to seeing a black comedy.
The kind of film that, we admit our sin, skims our wickedness of seeing characters suffer amidst a thousand hardships.
In this sense, Mark Webber is a perfect protagonist, repeatedly struck by bad luck until the devastating final knockout.
A seemingly harmless face hides behind a false smile his minor weaknesses and lies.
But when it comes to striking out to survive, he doesn’t back down in some fun and disturbing horror splatter.
On the other end of the phone, Ron Perlman is a modern Faust looking for souls to devour, as always lured by the promise of easy riches.
We soon realize that he is not in charge but rather just another pawn in a mysterious organization we will never know anything about.
Of course, the evolution of the plot defies the laws of narrative plausibility, but the fiercely anti-capitalist message comes through loud and clear.
The feeling of unease is omnipresent throughout the film, and as the protagonist, we wait tensely to discover his new sin to commit.
Humor steeped in evil fluidizes a plot that soon becomes like a flooding river, flowing inexorably toward the atrocious finale.
13 Sins is a film where horror, for once, is used intelligently as a social critique of our world.
Daniel Stamm signs what is undoubtedly his best film, then moves mainly to television productions.
Perhaps this is the sin of faithless producers since the director seemed to have a good voice to be heard even by the audience of entertainment films.
3- Red State (2011)
The latest film about faith and sin has a decidedly different beginning, with three friends befriending a beautiful girl on the internet.
The conversation turns spicy, and the girl mischievously proposes to have a pleasant evening of sex together.
Not even time to say it, and of course, the guys are already on their way to this small American town where the beautiful girl lives in her poor trailer.
After introductions, she offers everyone a round of drinks, correcting with a drug to knock them out.
When they wake up, the atmosphere is very different, and there is no mention of having sex.
The friends discover to be inside cages at a church of Christians excited by an obviously deranged reverend.
This coven of lunatics is responsible for countless murders, offering young sinners as sacrificial lambs to the Lord.
At the same time, an FBI agent is investigating the many reported disappearances in the area.
When they arrive at the church, the situation immediately escalates into a bloody shootout.
Unthinkably, they must face a more significant threat than they thought, as these Christians are heavily armed.
However, some of the captive boys break free, only to find themselves in the crossfire dangerously.
The group of Christians intends to fight to the death, believing the apocalypse is almost imminent.
While the feds and police cross the no return point, they plan to exterminate anyone in their path.
Eventually, the judgment trumpets will end the massacre, although it won’t be anything resembling the exalted was waiting for.
Forgive us for not knowing what we are doing
Before we upset any Christians, let’s just say that Kevin Smith loves to be ironic about these topics.
It’s hard to forget the irreverent Dogma of 1999, which cheerfully mocked angels, demons, and where God was Alanis Morissette.
The director has always had a discontinuous career, alternating excellent films like Clerks with others not as good as Cop Out.
I consider Red State his best movie, combining horror and humor in a tasty and unhealthy mixture.
I warned you before because, in this case, we are dealing with an insufferable coven of racists, homophobes, and ignorant devotees of the Christian cross.
Leading this ferocious flock of believers is Michael Parks, a fetish actor for the two director friends Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino in recent years.
This reverend embodies in his crazy look the worst of religious exaltation, intolerant of everything and everyone outside the four walls of his church.
And outside his church is John Goodman, an experienced federal agent now tired and disillusioned with his work.
The agent finds commanding in a warzone to slaughter both kidnappers and hostages without even meaning to.
The final scene with his interview at ATF headquarters is funny and chilling as the coldness of modern politics.
Among today’s movies, Red State is what I have watched the most, happily indulging the sin of enjoying it.
It’s advice never to take religion too seriously, seeking good on earth and not in heaven.