Films that “grapple” with Faith: “First Reformed” (2018) and “Novitiate” (2017)

First Reformed PosterFirst Reformed (2018)  

First Reformed” comes from director Paul Schrader, who co-wrote the scripts to such films as “Taxi Driver” (1976) and “Raging Bull” (1980), and who directed “American Gigolo” (1980) and “Affliction” (1997), among other films. It tells of Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke), a priest in the First Reformed church in Snowbridge, New York, who tries to help one man with his obsessive radical-environmentalist beliefs, but who ends up fighting his own inner demons instead. This film works well on many levels, but it is probably its deep philosophical, existentialist-like quality, as well as its masterful execution, which distinguish it above others. Deep, thought-provoking and resolute, “First Reformed” grapples interestingly with the questions of faith and morality, and, by the end, becomes both a subdued and quiet meditation on life and internal despair, and an explosively powerful statement on hope.

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