The Saint Movies

Even before I became a Muslim, I was never Catholic. I knew very little about Catholicism or the lives of the saints, nor was I interested. Now, I am interested.

Several years ago, I stumbled across a movie entitled, “Papa Luciani.” This movie was available on-line via http://www.rai.it/, the Italian network. It was one of a handful of Italian language movies I could watch on-line as an exercise in improving my Italian. This biography of Albino Luciani, who became Pope John Paul I, engaged my heart and mind. The acting and photography was so excellent I watched the movie repeatedly. Not only did I improve my comprehension of Italian, but I learned about a most remarkable man who continued to inspire, years after he died under mysterious circumstances in 1978 the age of sixty-five years.

After digesting this film, I discovered another film biography of a Catholic saint, this one called, “St. Giuseppe Moscati,  Doctor to the Poor”.  Moscati was a physician whose compassion and bravery made an indelible mark upon the subsequent development of medical care. Many people have never heard of this man, who was declared a saint in 1987.                   

After seeing these two films, my motives for watching them expanded. Not only was I interested in improving my Italian, but also now interested in exposing my spirit to the examples of human beings whose lives of love and sacrifice transcended religious constructs. These saints lived using Roman Catholicism as a matrix because that’s what they knew. The ultimate verity of Catholicism, Islam, or even Buddhism, for that matter, does not matter. The messages in these films transcend the incompatibility of theologies. In fact, most of these saints endured harsh criticism and even torture because they did not adhere to the decreed set of contemporary (for their day) Catholic rules.

As a Muslim, I can appreciate these saints and take lessons from them, apart from ideological dogma that drags upon all organized religions. I am not interested in leaving Islam or embracing Catholicism, but I am always interested in the lives of people who exemplify the most simple and universal of religious truths:  Love each other.

I’ve since watched other “saint” films— all extremely well done artistically and philosophically– documenting the lives of the saints. Among my favorites are:

 

Bakhita

From Slave to Saint

 

Padre Pio, Miracle Man, starring Sergio Castellito, one of Italy’s most respected actors.

 

Saint Francis

(of Assisi)

 

Saint Philip Neri, I Prefer Heaven

This one made me cry.

I

 

St. Giuseppe Moscati

Doctor to the Poor

(and one of the most handsome actors!)

 

All are available at http://www.ignatius.com and http://www.amazon.com.

If any reader happens to see one of these movies, please let me know your thoughts about what you saw.

Movie Review: Hereafter

Yesterday, I saw the movie Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood.  In terms of pure entertainment, it succeeded. The acting and photography were excellent. Each actor performed beautifully, to the extent that that they didn’t seem like actors at all, but real people, and here is where the line lies between fantasy and documentary.

I expected a serious examination of how the Near Death Experience occurs, and how it affects those who experience it and those who study it. I expected a serious inquiry into the idea of personal consciousness beyond death, and I expected it from at least a quasi-scientific viewpoint, but no, I didn’t get that.

Instead, I got great entertainment, made better by the omission of even a single naked boob, and barely one “f” word stuck quickly between the words “hocus-pocus.” Additionally, no sadistic behavior or masochistic pathology afflicted any of the characters.

The visual highlight of the film occurs in the beginning, when character Marie Lelay gets swept into a tsunami. That scene alone mimics what really happens in a tsunami. We compare what we see in the film to tsunami footage seen a few years ago of Indonesia; we come away with a renewed appreciation for the breadth of such a catastrophe.

The bulk of the movie narrates the unrelated stories of three people who experience encounters with death. Eventually, the three connect and influence each other. None of the three stories is totally convincing, but since the acting is so good, one goes with the flow, so to speak.

Nothing new is on offer here. People have been fascinated with the death experience, life after death, the hereafter, and communicating with the dead, for eons. This movie deals with all of that, but in a generic way, almost a trite way, and certainly not from any religious viewpoint.

If this movie is nominated for awards, it will be for cinematography, and perhaps acting. See it for diversion, but not much else.