Those who want more than traditional religious film fare might find the following films inspiring viewing during the week that Christians call Holy Week. Each was chosen because its theme or a scene relate to the events and teachings of Christ during his last week on earth.
Jesus' dramatic entrance into Jerusalem has been regarded by some as a freedom march, in which He challenged the ruling powers. In John Boorman's film, a Christ-like figure leads another demonstration, challenging the Burmese military dictatorship, ruthless as those prevailing in Jesus' day. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the Burmese pro-democracy movement, sets into motion events that will lead to an American visitor's psychic healing and enable her to regain her vocation of helping others. Laura, an American doctor, has arrived in Burma with her sister on a cruise she's taken after the murder of her husband and child. When Laura witnesses Aung San Suu Kyi calmly face down the soldiers called out to stop her, Laura is overcome with admiration, and her dormant sense of mission is reawakened.ALTERNATE: "Freedom Song" is the story of an African American father and son during the turbulent days of the civil rights movement inMississippi.
Based on the real-life friendship between Canadian Dr. Maurice Buck and American poet Walt Whitman, "Beautiful Dreamers" tells the story of a young, idealistic physician just hired to oversee the insane asylum in Ontario. We immediately see his revulsion at the cruel treatment of the mentally ill. Maurice orders patients' fetters to be loosened and the cage-like boxes for "unmanageable" inmates to be put away. While encouraging respect for his patients, however, Maurice keeps his wife and young daughter at a distance in the Victorian conventional manner, rarely sharing his thoughts and feelings. When he meets Whitman in Philadelphia, he is so drawn to the poet that he invites him to Canada to assist in his reforms at the asylum. Although excoriated by most clergymen as an infidel, Whitman comes across as more Christ-like than them, an iconoclast who invites all to come and drink deeply of the fountain of life. Whitman is also a Christ-figure for Maurice and his wife, freeing them from the spirit-stifling bondage of convention. ALTERNATE: "Jesus of Montreal," which has scenes similar to Jesus' temptation and his cleansing of the Temple. It is the story of an actor who finds himself living out the role of Jesus beyond the Passion play he is directing and starring in.
In Woody Allen's "Christ-figure film," perhaps his least darkly textured mature movie, a loser becomes a winner. Talent agent Danny Rose appears to one and all as a loser. His clients are balloon folders, a blind xylophone player, a wooden-legged tap dancer, and other hard-sells. Whenever he shepherds an act to fame, they inevitably leave him for more prestigious representation. Danny obtains for his Italian crooner, Lou, a spot on a Milton Berle TV special. Lou's mistress, Tina, talks Lou into dumping Danny for a better connected agent. On Lou's big day, he sends Danny to escort Tina to the show. Instantly disliking each other, Danny and Tina end up on a madcap round of adventures, during which they argue over their values. Tina declares that life is short, so you have to grab everything you can. Danny counters by declaring that we must live life guided by "Acceptance, forgiveness, and love." Tina and Lou's betrayal of Danny leads to an unexpected testing of his beliefs and the questioning of the possibility of redemption in a dog-eat-dog world.ALTERNATE: "Bagdad Cafe." A hefty German hausfrau, stranded in the Mojavedesert by her boorish husband, transforms the lives of the denizens of arun-down cafe and motel.
In John Sayles' story of people caught up in the great West Virginia coal-mine wars of the 1920s, we see two ways of dealing with injustice. Union organizer Joe Kenehan is sent to help the miners in their uphill struggle. For Kenehan, who preaches nonviolent resistance, the union is like a church, in which all races and nationalities are welcome. He strives to overcome the prejudices of the white mountaineers and the Italian and black replacement workers brought in to replace the locals. Joe has his work cut out for him: The mine owners import goons to provoke the miners to retaliate with violence themselves, thus giving the state governor cause to send in troops. There is a Good Friday and a type of Easter at the climax of the film. ALTERNATE: "Spitfire Grill." A woman just out of prison finds work in a small-town cafe and, though deeply wounded herself, brings a new sense ofworth and love to those whom she meets.