Calvary

August 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Posted in 2014 | 1 Comment
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It has taken me a week since seeing this movie before I could write about it. It was all just a bit too intense and I needed time to let it digest and to figure out what I thought of it. I warn you all now, this is not the movie for most people. The very first line of the film is, “I was seven years old the first time I tasted semen” and it goes from there. If you cannot stomach the implications of a story starting like that, you best stay away. I must admit, there is part of me that wishes I had. The story is billed as a black comedy but, I warn you, it’s more of a black hole; no light escapes at all.  For an hour and forty minutes, you will be subjected to the bleakest of views of the human condition with, yes, an occasional uncomfortable chuckle along the way.   Taking place entirely in a small Irish town, the story covers 7 days in a priest’s life as he wallows in the misery of the local villagers.  This story is more metaphor than anything else and each person is an archetype of suffering, almost all of it self-imposed.  Our hero priest, played beautifully by Brendan Gleeson (“In Bruges,” “The Guard” and Madeye Mooney in the “Harry Potter” series), bares the suffering of the world nobly enough but one is forced to wonder what for? Calvary is the hill upon which Christ was crucified and it’s clear that Gleeson’s character represents Christ but the takeaway from this story seems to be nothing so much as Christ’s sacrifice was utterly in vain. He should have stayed home in bed for all the good it did. That’s bleak stuff. Now some may wish to debate this interpretation and, fair enough; this film certainly leaves room for much discussion, particularly about the meaning of the ending. And, perhaps, there in lies the conundrum for me. I did not like this movie. On a personal, emotional, level, it was too bleak and, perhaps hit too close to home, for me to judge objectively. Yet, there is something there. Gleeson is superb as the deeply broken, world-weary priest and he leads a fine cast of Irish regulars, including Kelly Reilly (the “Sherlock Holmes” films), Aidan Gillen (“Game of Thrones”), and Chris O’Dowd (“The IT Crowd”), all of whom turn in great performances. The cinematography effectively captures both the grotesque and the graceful and some scenes are beautifully framed in their simplicity, using negative space to great advantage. The script is brutal but almost perfectly written, building tension unrelentingly toward a catharsis that may be more numbing than revelatory but is a release, none-the-less. There is something almost scriptural about this film, as though it could be a modern biblical parable, with all of the same potential to enlighten, confound or infuriate. Are there answers in “Calvary?” I guess it depends on what questions you’re asking and what answers you’ll accept.

 

 

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