“Christ is risen!”: The Big Bang within Time and Space | Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report
The movie Risen, now out on DVD, captures, in cinematic and artistic form, some key points I make in Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
A few months ago, while writing Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?, I was able to watch the movie Risen, which releases today on DVD. It was fortuitous as the film captures, in cinematic and artistic form, some key points that I emphasize in my book.
Prior to seeing Risen, I was concerned that the film might fall into a some of the traps that trip up many films made from a Christian perspective. One of those is a certain gauzy piety, which can make real people and events appear as if they exist and occur in another realm and world, almost completely divorced from the grind and grit of reality. Another common flaw is a heavy-handed preachiness, in which a central character launches into an Al Pacino-like soliloquy in which All Is Explained, thus eliminating any real sense of narrative and mystery. A third problem in some Christian cinema is poor production, or uneven acting and writing.
While viewers of good will can and will disagree about certain details in Risen, I think the movie both avoids those three problems and, at times, has moments of real cinematic brilliance. Right from the start, the film is rooted in the dusty and often violent chaos of first century Palestine under Roman rule. There is no romanticizing or sugarcoating of the poverty, brutality, and fear faced by so many ordinary Jews of the time. Death and difficulty are common fare, and they have a deep and lasting impact on Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), the Roman military tribune who is tasked by Pilate to investigate the startling disappearance of a the body of the crucified Jesus (Cliff Curtis).
Secondly, while there is plenty of dialogue—the film is presented (at least on one level) as a sort of a detective story, so much discussion ensues—there really isn’t much if any preaching. Even when Clavius and Jesus have a conversation toward the end of the film, the point is usually more about posing the right questions than providing tidy answers. It’s not that the film doesn’t point to good answers. Rather, it’s approach is somewhat similar to novelist Walker Percy’s tactic of being “diagnostic” rather than didactic. And, in fact, the film has a strong existential quality to it, as it begins and ends with Clavius alone and in the desert, still pondering the great Mystery he has encountered through a seemingly ordinary mystery.
The production and acting in Risen are excellent, and Fiennes, in particular, delivers an impressive performance. The movie, in the end, rests squarely on his shoulders, and he conveys a serious mixture of Roman roughness and spiritual restlessness. He is meant, it seems to me, to represent the serious modern skeptic, who has profound doubts but is also open to something more than just a short life without any real meaning.
At the start of my book, I emphasize that the Resurrection has, from the start, both scandalized and divided.