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Films and Faith Weekend

Laura Miller | Thursday, October 26, 2006

Faith and films – those are the words of choice as the Browning Cinema at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts hosts the Films and Faith Weekend. Put on by the theology and film, television, and theatre departments as a College of Arts and Letters “Decade of the Arts” signature event, the series will show films from various countries this Friday through Sunday night. The weekend will open with a reception and keynote address in the Browning Cinema lobby at 6 p.m. Friday.

As a series, the films provide a glimpse of spirituality across different temporal dimensions. The theme for this weekend is “Faces of the Saint.” In keeping with this theme, the grouping of films seeks to demonstrate a varied depiction of spiritual life.

Each of the six featured films focuses on saintly individuals and actual saints to explore the ways spiritual life has been portrayed in dramatically different ways by French, German, Italian and American directors over the past five decades. Most of the films explore the lives of religious clergy, but “Household Saints” explores spiritual aspects of family life.

It is ambitious to expect any student to attend the entire film series, but these films definitely have great potential. If nothing else, students should take advantage of the chance to see a few noted foreign flicks. The program also helps to put each movie in context with opening remarks, as well as question-and-answer sessions after each showing.

Since Notre Dame is one of the premier religious institutions in the country, the series in Films and Faith is unique to the status of the university. Although mainstream movies generally do not incorporate many religious themes, this series highlights the films whose primary aim is on religious discussion.

u”Diary of a Country Priest” (1951), Friday, 7 p.m.

This film is probably one of the most familiar names around campus, due to the fact that it once was a fairly popular novel. The film, directed by Robert Bresson, is in French with English subtitles. This film tells the story of the life of a small-town priest and his daily struggles. The novel, written by author George Bernanos, is also part of a lecture series, “Shining in Obscurity: Rediscovering Four Catholic Authors” that will take place during the next several weeks on campus. The novel can be purchased at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, and the lecture will take place on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in 155 DeBartolo.

u”The Ninth Day” (2005), Friday, 10 p.m.

“The Ninth Day” is one of the more recently made films to be shown this weekend. Directed by Volker Schlondorff, it tells the story of a priest from Luxembourg who is sent to the Dachau concentration camp during the Holocaust. He is released on the condition that he convince the Bishop to sign an agreement with Nazi Germany and is told that if he fails to do this within nine days, he will be sent back to Dachau. This movie is notable because of its relatively fresh approach to the Holocaust – that is, how Christians approached (or did not approach) the moral issues surrounding it.

u”The Flowers of St. Francis” (1950), Saturday, 3 p.m.

This film is one of the most unique of the series – rather than a woven narrative, it consists of short segments about the life and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. It is directed by Roberto Rossellini, in Italian with English subtitles. Cast with monks from the Nocera Inferiore Monastery, this film promises to be authentic in appearance and meaning. It is also an extremely brief film – just over an hour – an easy thing to squeeze in if you’re not watching the football game.

u”Household Saints” (1993), Saturday, 7 p.m.

“Household Saints” is the only film of the series that focuses on family life, rather than life in a religious vocation. This film, directed by Nancy Savoca, tells the story of an Italian-American family in the years after World War II. As the daughter in the story ages, she develops an increasing level of religious fanaticism.

This film explores ideas about faith in the family context as well as a discussion of Italian-American life and religious ideals. This is the only film of the series that is filmed in English, so it provides a good option for those who dislike films with subtitles.

u”Therese” (1986), Saturday, 10 p.m. and Sunday, 7 p.m.

This film, directed by Alain Cavalier, tells the story of the life of St. Therese de Lisiux. Unlike “The Flowers of St. Francis,” “Therese” is in narrative form. It attempts to adhere to a historically accurate representation of St. Therese through the use of depictions from Therese’s journals. Because the life of St. Therese is so compelling – she died from tuberculosis while still young – little is done to sensationalize the film. Rather, Cavalier simplifies his style in order to allow the story to speak for itself. The film is in French with English subtitles.

u”Into Great Silence” (2005), Sunday, 3 p.m.

Director Philip Groening picks up on a growing trend of artistic filming in “Into Great Silence.” As its title indicates, this film has no spoken dialogue. The story traces the lives of a group of monks in the French alps. The lives of these monks are extraordinary in their silence – only interrupted by prayer and song. There are English subtitles, as the monks pray and sing in French and Latin. While this film has no narrative story, it is designed to provoke spiritual inspiration through watching the monks go through their daily routine.