Friday, July 06, 2018

Paul Schrader's neo-Bergmanism

One of the most talked-about movies of the spring was “First Reformed,” Paul Schrader’s austere, intense portrait of a Protestant minister coming undone in upstate New York. The movie, starring Ethan Hawke as the Rev. Ernst Toller, explores themes that viewers versed in Mr. Schrader’s more than four-decade body of work — which includes “American Gigolo” and “Light Sleeper” (as director) and “Taxi Driver” (as screenwriter) and the critical study “Transcendental Style in Film” — will surely recognize. 

This is not the first time he has delved into the existential torment of a man’s soul, nor the first time he has summoned the influences of Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson, Carl Dreyer and other transcendental film heroes.

Rob's comment:
Those Ingmar Bergman movies about "existential torment" were---still are, if I bothered to torment myself by watching them again---remarkably boring. As a young man, I watched them only because they were recommended by critics as important movies. Not to me they weren't/aren't. I prefer the later Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" and "Scenes From a Marriage" to those about "torment of a man's soul." 

Find your religion hard to believe or live by? Hard cheese, old boy!

More from the story in the Times:

A. O. SCOTT: What kind of pastor is Rev. Toller?

PAUL SCHRADER: As a pastor, he’s a charity case. They have this little church, and this is a job that nobody wants, probably it doesn’t pay dirt. When someone actually wants his help, the first thing he tries to do is pass them on to the bigger organization. I don’t think Toller stands in any Christian tradition other than the existential one — this notion of Albert Camus’s: I don’t believe, I choose to believe.

Wrong! Albert Camus was famous for not being a Christian. Schrader must be thinking of the William James muddle in The Will to Believe.

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