Sunday, October 08, 2006

VIFF: SON OF MAN absolute must-see! Tuesday only.

I saw SON OF MAN on Saturday at the VIFF, and I simply loved it. Enough that I'm going to see it again at its only other VIFF showing, Tuesday night at 9:45, at the Granville cinemas downtown.

I don't want to get all superlative about the film, and diminish other people's response when they see it. The fellow I went with is also a film buff, and he was unaffected, found it uneven. But I just want to move in to that movie like a house, drop my nets and follow.

It's got elements fairly early on that put me on edge, pushing my "uh oh this is heresy" or "darn they're completely humanizing/politicizing the story" buttons. But frankly, I like my Jesus movies that way: otherwise, I'm too sure where they're headed, and I just sit in my theatre seat checking off the Bible stories, nodding at the orthodoxy. This one rattled me enough, and shuffled the story around enough, that I was leaning forward in my seat right through.

Certainly foregrounds the danger and violence of Jesus' first century context under the Roman occupation forces to watch his story through a modern African lens. The horrors of the original story are horrific again.

Also certain is the fact that this film is made by a director (and ensemble - the company develops its ideas collectively) with a vividly visual, impassioned, utterly theatrical sensibility. (It comes out of South Africa's dimpho di kopane theatre, who also created the wildly acclaimed "Yiimimangaliso: The Mysteries," a contemporary African version of the Chester mystery cycle that ran for two years in London's west end). Watching the film, I kept thinking, yes, that's a dazzling stroke, from a truly theatrical imagination - but never stage-bound, always visually, filmically conceived. An aesthetic that's both bold and sophisticated.

There are now three films at the top of my 2006 list; L'ENFANT, SOPHIE SCHOLL and, now, SON OF MAN.

P.S. Okay, there's
a dvd version of Yiimimangaliso! Time to get out the pocketbook...)


After Tuesday's second viewing...

Dan, my movie/theology buddy, commented that the film is "sophisticated." I leapt in and agreed, "aesthetically," and he added, "theologically." Mentioned Rene Girard, and I tossed in a couple scriptures that have been on my mind about the film's crucifixion, and he "Amened" me and pointed out that the film has a very strongly Johannine theology of the cross. Can't wait to sit down with Dan and unpack that.

My UK friend Matt Page, who is something of a Jesus movie scholar (with very similar taste in film, for whatever that's worth) has posted a review at his blog.

And there's also a thread at Arts & Faith about the film, with some further thoughts about the politics and theology of the film.

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