Tag Archives: what to watch

WHAT TO SEE: Martyr of conscience persevered in faith

A Hidden Life
August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Maria Simon
174 min. • Rated: PG-13

Franz Jägerstätter was a simple farmer of deep faith. When his conscience forbade him from armed service in support of Hitler’s Germany, he suffered the repercussions and eventually paid the ultimate price. Once his story became better known, his cause for sainthood was opened and he was beatified in 2007.

A Hidden Life tells the story of this brave man who held to his sacred principles even when much of the populace of Austria — including its clergy — capitulated in fear to the Nazi annexation of their country. Even his wife, mother, and parish priest initially wished he would somehow accommodate the call to fight. He obtained deferrals, but was denied a position in the hospital corps when he was forced to report to the Austrian Army in 1943. Refusing to take the oath to Hitler, he was imprisoned, repeatedly tortured, convicted of treason, and finally executed by guillotine.

This atmospheric film is leisurely paced — a critic might say “plodding” — as it seems in no hurry to arrive at its inevitable conclusion. It is established early and often that Jägerstätter and his wife are hardworking farmers who dearly love each other and their three daughters. He wrestles interiorly with the pressures and decisions he faces and their potential consequences for his family. The spite of their once-friendly neighbors compounds their pain. Behind prison walls, he remains stoic and submissive to his beatings, but unshakable in his convictions. His letters home express his continued love and affection for his family as well as his solid faith.

Dialogue is sparse, but important themes are explored: the sense of abandonment by God, the problem of pain, the temptation to sacrifice one’s integrity in order to avoid suffering. Confusion spews from the lips of cynics: “He who created this world made evil,” says one, while another speaks of how the Antichrist “uses a man’s virtues to enslave him.” Jägerstätter will have none of that: He knows that even in his cell, bruised and deprived, he is truly free.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

WHAT TO SEE: What the children saw

Fatima
Harvey Keitel, Stephanie Gil, Goran Visnjic, Sônia Braga, Joaquim de Almeida
100 min • Not Rated

The familiar story of the 1917 appearances of the Virgin Mary to three young shepherd children in Portugal receives a beautiful big-screen treatment in the new 2020 drama Fatima, scheduled for release to theaters everywhere on April 24.

It’s an immensely satisfying film in that it conveys the incredible events and the reported messages from Mary with simplicity and sincerity. The children are portrayed with delightful realism, their families and townspeople believably exhibit various degrees of bewilderment and credulity, and the Virgin radiantly regards her young subjects with obvious deep love and even a little amusement. To the film’s credit, the apparitions and miracles are not given a Hollywood special-effects treatment, which surprisingly makes these scenes that much more moving.

Although Our Lady of Fatima is an approved devotion and has borne great fruit in the lives of many of the faithful, as private revelation there is no obligation for Catholics to believe in the Fatima apparitions or their related messages. In interspersed scenes set in a convent many decades later, Fatima gives voice to the skeptics in the person of an unbelieving journalist who visits Sister Lucia in her cloister to interview her for a book he is writing. The saintly nun answers his objections with grace and cordiality, even if unsatisfyingly in some instances.

Even if one finds the story of Fatima and its “miracle of the sun” too incredible to accept, the historical record is clear: something wonderful happened here, witnessed not only by three shepherd children but also by tens of thousands of onlookers, and something wonderful continues to happen in the hearts and lives of those who respond positively to the Virgin of Fatima’s call — to turn away from sin, to devote oneself to her Immaculate Heart, and to pray the rosary for peace in the world and the salvation of souls.

Make the effort to take your family to see this movie when it comes to your local theater this Easter season.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

 

WHAT TO SEE: Mercy shall be theirs

Faustina: Love and Mercy
Kamila
Kaminska, Maciej Malysa, Janusz Chabior
107 min. • Not Rated

The now-familiar Divine Mercy image originated with a vision of Christ given to Sister Faustina Kowalksa, a young member of a convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland – to whom Jesus appeared in 1931. The private revelations and messages she received over several years, faithfully recorded in a diary as directed by her confessor, provide the basis for the popular modern devotion to Divine Mercy and the relatively new feast day that bears its name.

The new docudrama Faustina: Love and Mercy provides a window into the brief life and work of St. Faustina, whom Pope St. John Paul II canonized in 2000 as the “first saint of the new millennium.” Screened at select theaters in special one-night engagements last fall, the film could soon see a third theatrical release before becoming available on DVD or through streaming services. 

Filmed in Polish with voiceovers in English, Faustina impressively portrays the young nun’s early life, her spiritual struggles, her relationship with her spiritual director (Bl. Fr. Michal Sopocko), her visions, and her death in 1938 at the age of 33. It fell to the priest to spread devotion to Divine Mercy and to found a religious order dedicated to the same, tasks Jesus had asked of St. Faustina.

The film describes the growth of the devotion and its suppression in 1959, which was lifted by the Vatican in 1978 through the efforts of one Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope St. John Paul II.

The history of the original Divine Mercy image itself is covered in detail, from the painstaking process of having it painted accurately to its survival despite years of communist religious repression. 

What comes through in Faustina: Love and Mercy is the holiness of St. Faustina and the urgency of her message: that we must seek God’s mercy in repentance, extend mercy to others, and place all our trust in Jesus. 

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Discerning The King, Long Before His Coming

Messiah, a new eight-part documentary film series, explores how the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ – and his Church

After millennia of preparing his people through the patriarchs, prophets, the law and his covenant, God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news of salvation and to redeem us through his cross and resurrection.

The story of Jesus has been told in film numerous times, from motion picture epics that keep close to the Gospel narratives to modern reinterpretations that strive to make Jesus more accessible to contemporary believers.

Now comes Messiah, a new eight-part documentary series due for release this fall. Filmed on location in the Holy Land, in Rome, and in the United States, it is produced and marketed for use in churches, schools, and private homes.

So why make another Jesus film? What more is there to say about Christ?

“In one sense Messiah doesn’t say anything new. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” said Rick Rotondi, creator and executive producer of the series, referencing the Letter to the Hebrews. “Two thousand years ago, Jesus revealed Himself fully to His apostles. In a project like Messiah, all any artist or filmmaker can hope to accomplish is to mine the riches of this revelation once given to the saints.”

Although Christ remains the same, Rotondi added, “Every generation must discover Christ afresh. There are truths about Christ we tend to forget. We’ve forgotten the astounding ways in which Christ fulfills the Old Testament.

“I hope Messiah changes that,” he added.

What Messiah brings to the forefront

Due for release in the fall, Messiah guides viewers through the Old Testament covenants and prophecies beginning with the Exodus event and reveals how these prophecies are fulfilled in the person of Christ — and the Church he established.

Filmed on locations in the United States, the Holy Land, and Rome, Messiah uses beautiful images and music, narration, voice actors, and expert interviews to convey how the Church fulfills the messianic prophecy as a “light to the nations.” Designed for presentation in churches, schools, and private homes, the new series is a catalyst for catechesis and discussion.

Leonardo Defilippis, who serves as the series’ host, has evangelized through stage and film presentations on the Gospels and the lives of the saints for nearly four decades. He calls Messiah “a very profound work.”

All Christians are taught that Jesus is the Christ, the “anointed one” of God, Defilippis said, but Messiah shows how He is the priest who builds God’s true Temple, which is the Church.

Unfortunately, “so many Christians do not recognize Him and slip away due to their lack of faith and lukewarm spirit,” he explained. “This is the state of the world and of our very beings most of the time.”

Defilippis said it’s easy to see why people stray from the Church, and it can be summarized in one word: sin. “We leave Jesus because we constantly reject His very person and follow the way of the world,” he said.

But Messiah “reminds us that He is the true liberator, and it is all clearly proclaimed through the history of salvation,” he added. The film thus points viewers toward “the reality of the kingdom of God, heaven itself.”

Catholic novelist and co-producer Bud Macfarlane agreed with the evangelizing potential of Messiah. “No viewer will ever experience Mass the same way again, because the series places Old and New Testament readings into a world-historical and supernatural perspective,” he said.

Challenges and blessings

Filming in Rome and the Holy Land often came with tight restrictions that presented special challenges. Sometimes authorities allowed the crew just an hour to stage and film a scene; other times guards were unexpectedly tolerant of their presence at particular locations. The project, however, seemed to be blessed at every turn.

“We saw one mini-miracle after another while on this set,” said director John Strong. “We went to impossible lengths and got the footage we desired.”

Defilippis found himself deeply inspired while filming in the Holy Land. “I had the privilege to see a window into heaven many times,” he said. At the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, he was moved to drop to his knees in silent prayer. “At that moment it hit me that this is one of the most significant places in all of creation,” he explained.

Anticipating profound impact

Rotondi said he hopes viewers will be affected profoundly by Messiah. “One of the takeaways I hope people obtain from Messiah is that God is faithful to His promises,” he said. “To see how God’s promises to Abraham and Moses and David come to fruition in Christ fills us with awe and should give us confidence that God will fulfill His promises to us.”

Another hoped-for takeaway is that the Church on earth is the Kingdom of God and the Lord’s Temple, tasked with carrying out Christ’s work of salvation.

“We don’t often get to enjoy this glorious image of the Church today, but it’s a true one,” Rotondi said. “Despite the Church’s sins and wounds, despite corruption, sin, and timidity in her human members, the Church is the living and active presence of Christ in the world. The Church is the Mystical Body of the Messiah, extending His dominion through time and space, putting all things under His feet.”

For more information about the film’s September 2019 release, visit SeeMessiah.com.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.