In the opening few pages of a saint’s biography, it is rare to find the words “His life would make a magnificent film!” Rarely. Alternatively, “Her story was like something straight out of a Hollywood film!”
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The stories of some of the saints appear to be tailor-made for the silver screen, given how visually appealing they are. Francis and his vision at San Damiano, Francis preaching to the birds, and so forth are depicted in a series of Giotto frescoes at Assisi’s Basilica of St. Francis. Lawrence S. Cunningham writes in his book A Brief History of the Saints that the biography of St. Joan of Arc has been the subject of almost 30 different film adaptations since the talkies. This time, the visual aspects are clear: her visions, meeting the Dauphin, her military victories, her martyrdom.
When it comes to the lives of other saints, such as the founders of religious organizations, it is more difficult to dramatize their stories because they often transition from a spectacular conversion to mundane management. St. Ignatius of Loyola has long been reported to be played by Antonio Banderas, the cousin of a Jesuit. But after the foundation of the Society of Jesus, any marketable screenplay would be over. No one would want to sit through an hour of Ignatius penning his 6,813 letters, putting pen to paper, to write the Constitutions.
At this point in history, there have been some holy people who are more closely associated with the films that depict them. A movie based on Mother Teresa’s biography, starring Geraldine Chaplin, was approved in 1997 by the late Mother Teresa. She answered, “Bless him and his film.” Dom James Fox, abbot of the Abbey of Gethsemani, rejected Don Ameche’s request for the rights to Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain in 1949. As for Merton, he had been inspired by Gary Cooper. After rejecting the actor, Dom James inquired about Mr. Ameche’s Easter responsibilities. Then, he’d.
It is possible to learn about the saints through films. In some cases, the movies do a better job of presenting the saint’s unique charism than the biographies do. Films and documentaries about religious figures are presented here in chronological order, with the most recent first.
1. The Song of Bernadette (1943)
Catholic youngsters were taken to the premiere of this film by a group of priests, nuns, and brothers who were ecstatic about it. The narrative of the Virgin Mary appearing to a poor girl in a backwater village in southern France in 1858 has lost its attraction since then. St. Bernadette Soubirous, played by Jennifer Jones, and Abbé Peyramale, played by Charles Bickford, are the stars of the film, which is based on Franz Werfel’s novel of the same name. Although some find the score overripe, the language sugary, and Vincent Price’s performance hammy, the character of Bernadette shines through in this film. The first surprise that greeted what appeared to be a child’s lie still lingers. After hearing Bernadette’s story, Bernadette’s parents beat her. Despite the skepticism of everyone around her, Bernadette stood up to her critics and refused to deny what she had witnessed.
2. Joan of Arc (1948)
“The Passion of Joan of Arc,” a 1928 silent film directed by Carl Theodore Dreyer and starring Maria Falconetti, is still remembered fondly by cinephiles, but this Technicolor sound version is unequaled for its vibrant colors and acoustics. Even though Ingrid Bergman, at 33, was considerably too old to play the 14-year-old girl and far too tall to play the petite visionary, the film’s passion and director Victor Fleming’s love of sheer pageantry make up for those inadequacies. It’s especially worth watching for José Ferrer’s snooty portrayal of the Dauphin and Charles VII. He’s going to be a terrible king.
3. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Robert Bolt’s screenplay, Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas, Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey, Wendy Hiller as his wife, Alice, and Robert Shaw as an increasingly petulant and finally outraged Henry VIII make this film a must-see for anybody interested in the Tudor era. In this picture, the saintly figure is depicted as someone who is able to discern between nuance in his faith and the necessity for unequivocal response to injustice. viewers may ask if St. Thomas More was as articulate as he is depicted in Bolt’s film. And he was equally adept at joking around with his executioner before his martyrdom as he was delivering an epigram to a group of lords. For further evidence, read Richard Marius’ Thomas More or Peter Ackroyd’s The Life of Thomas More.
4. Roses in December (1982)
For Christians, this film reminds us why they’re so passionate about social justice and the “preferential option for the poor” in a time when these issues are generally viewed as outdated. Documentary about three sisters and a lay volunteer who died in El Salvador in 1980 as a result of their efforts to help the underprivileged is a heartbreaking tribute. It is the story of Jean Donovan, the Maryknoll lay missioner, who was raised in an affluent Connecticut family and went on to serve the underprivileged of Latin America. Simplicity serves as an artistic counterpoint to the subjects’ basic lifestyle and the simple beauty of their sacrifice.
5. Merton: A Film Biography (1984)
A short film about Thomas Merton produced by Paul Wilkes, the Catholic writer, is too personal for me to be objective about. My journey to the priesthood began over 20 years ago when I saw this program on PBS. Watching it again last year, I found myself enthralled with the story. Photographs of Merton’s early life and interviews with those who knew him before and after he entered the monastery are used to tell the story of one of the most prominent American Catholics. In the end, you’ll want to read The Seven Storey Mountain, and who knows where that will lead you? ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’
6. Thérèse (1986)
There are few films about the quiet life on cinema that are as eloquently conveyed as this enigmatic film. French director Alain Cavalier tells the story of Thérèse Martin through a sequence of vignettes that take the audience from her cosseting youth to her tragic death. Thérèse’s life at the convent at Lisieux is depicted in all its ugliness, and the physical pain that accompanied her last years is not spared either. But it also demonstrates the peacefulness that comes with a life of contemplation. We are reminded in this masterpiece of understatement that holiness is not flashy, and the Carmelite nun’s “Little Way” of loving God by doing simple things, is made obvious to us through this gem of a movie, which is in French with subtitles.
7. Romero (1989)
The depiction of a conversion in this film about the slain archbishop of San Salvador is one of its greatest strengths. When Archbishop Oscar Romero’s friends were killed, he was transformed from a bishop who was willing to grovel to the wealthy to a man who was transformed into a prophet for the underprivileged by his reappropriation of the Gospel. With a ferocious passion for San Salvador’s people, archbishop Raul Julia works tirelessly to promote social justice. During the filming of the movie, the actor revealed that he went through a personal transformation. When Romero prays publicly and silently, it’s one of the most realistic depictions of prayer on film.
8. Blackrobe (1991)
To be fair, the film by Bruce Beresford does not focus on a specific saint. St. Isaac Jogues and St. Jean de Brébeuf were two 17th-century Jesuit martyrs who labored among the Hurons and Iroquois in the New World. “Father Laforgue” is the name given to the film’s protagonist, who meets St. Isaac. A number of Catholics find this film, based on Brian Moore’s novel and also the screenplay, unappealing because it depicts the priest’s existence in a dreary light and implicitly criticizes missionaries for their negative impact on the indigenous peoples. However, in the end, the film shows a man who tries to introduce God to the people he falls in love with. “Blackrobe, do you love us?” is an effort to sum up a Catholic heritage of missionary labor in a single image.
9. St. Anthony: Miracle Worker of Padua (2003)
As a feature-length film, this is the first about the twelfth-century saint most renowned for helping you find your keys. After nearly murdering his best friend in a battle in his home city of Lisbon, Anthony dreams of becoming a knight. Anthony vows to become a monk as a form of self-punishment. He joins the Augustinian canons, but Francis of Assisi’s Order of Friars Minor quickly snares him. A well-made film depicts the saint’s transformation, his call to a simple lifestyle, and the miracle-working he is said to have performed during his lifetime. However, if medieval portraiture is to be accepted, Anthony in the film resembles Francis of Assisi more than the actor who portrays Francis.
10. The Saint of 9/11 (2006)
It is possible that you have heard of Mychal Judge, O.F.M, who was one of the heroes of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Father Judge, a popular fire chaplain in New York City, was killed on September 11, 2001, while he served the firemen in the north tower of the World Trade Center. It’s possible you’ve never heard that the Franciscan priest served New York City’s impoverished and homeless for many years, was an early minister to AIDS victims when many others (including doctors and nurses) rejected them, or that he was an experienced pastor in three different churches. In this amazing new documentary, Father Judge’s life is examined from the perspective of his faith, which allowed him to overcome his alcoholism and accept his homosexuality (he was a celibate priest). According to an Irish Mercy Sister, “He was a nice man who cared for so many.” It’s the best clergy film in a long time. It also mentions that the Franciscan priest Judge had another devotion: to Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette. This is a hint to a previous film on the list.