Calvary is a poignant tragicomedy with black humor from Irish director and screenwriter John Michael McDonagh and starring Brendan Gleeson.
This story is about a priest who is in mortal danger. Before him is a choice: run away or voluntarily go to Calvary.
The action takes place in a small inconspicuous church, a small provincial town in Ireland. Father James (Brandon Gleason) listens to a parishioner in the confessional as he tells him about being sexually abused for five years by a now-deceased priest.
“I learned the taste of semen at the age of seven. Don’t you have anything to say? “A truly discouraging start.”
He came to the shepherd not for pity and not for repentance, but to inform him of his intention to kill him in a week. The man is convinced that the murder of a bad clergyman would still not change anything, and the death of a good one, and even on Sunday, will shock society and make them think. This will become a kind of revenge on society and the Catholic Church for the lawlessness committed against it. He gives James a week to finish everything and find peace in God.
The shepherd did not see the face of a potential killer, but managed to recognize his voice in one of his parishioners. He did not turn to the police for help and did not prepare for his own death, although he did not doubt the seriousness of his intentions. Instead, the father continued to live his ordinary life: he served Mass, communed parishioners, went about his daily business and tried to help his flock drowned in sins.
The townspeople here regularly attend church, but they do it rather for show and do not even think about repentance. Many of them have long lost faith in their souls and confess more out of fear of the unknown.
“Yes, but what is faith? For most, this is just a fear of death, nothing more. And that kind of faith is very easy to lose.” They rather flaunt their sins, throwing them in the face of the priest who comes to them. Everyone tells something unsightly about himself, but does it not with repentance, but with malevolent sarcasm, devilish challenge and mockery.
What is the meaning of this film? Everyone will find something to think about after watching this film, because it raises a lot of different issues, some topics are touched upon in passing, and some are stretched like a red thread through the entire plot.
Very interesting and eloquent “Golgotha” reflects the attitude of society towards the Catholic Church. After all, throughout the week we are shown how the parishioners of the church in which our hero serves, treat his instructions with disdain. The townspeople mock the priest, provoke him into a conflict, try to undermine his faith in God and in every possible way denigrate the entire Catholic Church in his eyes (“the world will collapse if the Catholic Church loses interest in money”).
What is most unfortunate is that the mood of society is not unfounded. How can you believe the church when its own representatives, called to bring light and goodness to this world, rape children, and their leadership covers all this? But the film also shows that with all this horror, there are still good clergymen who really, from the bottom of their hearts, are trying to help people. But, unfortunately, Father James himself periodically became a victim of the tarnished reputation of the Catholic Church. A striking example is the moment where the shepherd was walking down the street and decided to talk to a girl walking by, but the father who suddenly appeared reacted very emotionally to this situation and yelled at the priest so that he would no longer approach her.
Also, throughout the film, a whole gallery of human characters and destinies passes before us. A married woman snorting cocaine and openly having fun with her lover in front of her husband; the same husband who beats his wife regularly; a rich tyrant who has fallen into despondency from the meaninglessness of his existence; a policeman having fun with a call boy; an elderly writer contemplating suicide; a provincial doctor mired in his own cynicism and not considering every human life valuable – all these people certainly suffer from their own sins that destroy their souls and destinies, but are more likely to continue to suffer than to go to repentance.
The main character, as the head of his small parish, does not just try to help these people get out of this swamp of sin and pain, he practically lives their life, knowing about them even what they do not know about themselves. So a good-natured, but strong in spirit priest does not hide his inner and outer gaze from the lawlessness that is happening around him.
Our hero is the most ordinary person who made many mistakes in life.
Before taking the priesthood, he drank excessively, and after the death of his wife, he completely left his daughter, because of which she felt abandoned and lonely. Sometimes James himself cannot find answers for his flock, but he tries very hard and believes that he should bring comfort to people, while moving away from his feelings. In the week that is given to him, he manages to go through many events: go around all his parishioners, survive the death of his beloved dog, explain himself to his daughter and forgive each other for all grievances, lose the church in a fire and survive a beating in a local bar. Day after day he loses everything that is dear to him; the world seems to be testing him for strength. “Your time is long over, and you won’t understand it,” the local bartender says to the priest, trying to knock the ground out from under his feet. But it was not there. “My time will never end”
When the priest still cannot stand such tension and decides to drop everything and run away, already at the airport he meets a woman who has recently become a widow, who shares her feelings that she may not be able to withstand the grief that has befallen her, but further claims that this is a delusion and she’ll be fine. After talking with her, Father James is inspired and also decides not to run away from the test, but to dive into it with his head and steadfastly accept his fate.
It is not completely known what motivated the main character: a sense of guilt for the deeds of other representatives of the Catholic Church, a desire to answer for the sins of his flock, or the hope of saving his potential killer from eternal death by finding a way to his heart. But most likely he perceives what is happening as a kind of call from God and completely entrusts his fate to him. He sacrificed himself, as Jesus Christ himself once did. Shortly before his death, in a conversation with his daughter, the priest manages to say that people talk a lot about sins, but little about virtue, and most of all people underestimate the power of forgiveness.
It is with forgiveness that the plot of the film “Calvary” ends. When the daughter of a murdered clergyman, having overcome unimaginable torments, comes to the prison to the killer of her father to talk to him on the prison phone. And such forgiveness (although this scene is played silently in the film) touches the soul of the criminal: the viewer understands from the killer’s eyes that he is changing. This becomes clear evidence that the power of forgiveness and love is able to get out of hell the one who, it would seem, is bogged down in it forever. Consistent service and sacrifice for others is a great feat that Father James managed to accomplish despite doubts.
What is the meaning of Golgotha?
The desire to get into the head of the artist, the creator – whether we are talking about the secret meaning of the Mona Lisa’s smile, flies in Dostoevsky’s novels or childhood night experiences of the creator of A Nightmare on Elm Street – is the desire of every thinking person who knows anything about art. However, in the end, we always have only our own perception, our own reactions to this or that work of art.
Many must have already spoken (and no doubt will speak again), at varying degrees of length, about John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary. I’ll put in my five cents too.
The plot of the film became known to me a few months before the wide screening and prompted me to find the director’s previous film, Once Upon a Time in Ireland. I always try to do this: it excites the imagination and allows you to take a closer look, as if through a magnifying glass, at the work of a person who, in this case, has taken on such a dangerous topic. It is not a secret, after all, that when referring to religious or ecclesiastical topics, or showing their confessionalism, the creators of the once masterpieces happen to put their creative fuse somewhere, trying to prove to the viewer that the resulting ideological popular print has something to do with art. .
So, when my hands finally reached Calvary, it was amusing for me to watch, considering that most of the actors migrated to Calvary from Once Upon a Time in Ireland, how a sarcastic, cheerful policeman turns into an ironic and sad priest; a psychopathic criminal – into a limited priest (“Here it is – the future priesthood …”), losing his will in front of the prospect of big money, who, according to the main character, would be better off becoming an accountant at an insurance agency; how a police officer remains the same as he was, only rises to the rank of chief and changes his sexual orientation (or maybe not – who knows?), and a hooligan kid grows up and acquires an inclination towards drawing.
All this, of course, is a mind game: no one turns into anyone, we are talking about a completely different film, but the perception has become different, it has acquired additional volume and colors. Everything became non-random, recognizable and even painfully familiar.
And, by the way, about “painfully familiar”. Being drawn into the film as I watched it, I could not get rid of the completely irrational feeling that it was filmed as if by a priest who knows the life he represents from the inside, down to insignificant gestures and individual remarks, of course, cinematically conditioned, that is, made and said in the same way as he I, for example, most likely would never have done and said within the framework of my own priestly existence, but very often I would like to do and say.
For myself, I determined that this film is about love. Not about “lyuboff”, which sighs on the bench, but about the one that, along with faith and hope, and more than both of them at the same time. And not about that love when a notorious saint parted with his life at the hands of a notorious villain, after which the immaculate soul of the first goes straight to heaven to the singing of angels, and the repentant second character, sprinkling ashes on his head, goes to the nearest monastery to spend the rest of his life in fasting and prayer.
In this film, the priest is not a saint, and the villain evokes sympathy rather than any kind of hostility. The priest has a curly past, in which the death of his wife, and problems with alcohol, and a break with his daughter; the villain is surrounded, in other words, by hell – both in the past and in the present – from which he wants to escape in any way, even if it is so shocking and unthinkable: the worse, the better.
Actually, hell – this is how you can characterize the state of any of the parishioners of the hero, despite their formal commitment to the Church and regular participation in the sacraments. They sneer, sneer, even try to resonate, as if mimicking the priest, hiding their deepest inner emptiness (“What are you, father, I have everything in a bundle …”), in which, yes, they are not always to blame, but also unworthy representatives Churches, whether they are notorious pedophiles in cassocks or duplicitous and dishonest mitron-bearers.
However, their personal hell is that they are ready to put their lives on the line, just to prove that all churchmen are completely hypocrites, whose time has passed a long time ago.
I’ll jump ahead and pay attention to how this topic, as it seemed to me, is revealed in the final credits: in the line break, frames appear every now and then, depicting those places where the priest appeared either alone or with other characters throughout the film. Now these places – a table in a cafe, the banks of the river, the sea, a beautiful alley – are empty. They are deprived not only of the priest – it seems as if they are completely depopulated, died out.
The desire to deal not even with the Church, the priests, with whom they all seem to be fighting on the sly (and not only quietly – after all, someone killed the priest’s dog …), but with all that good and bright that they have, leads to moral, and then to personal disincarnation, metaphorically conveyed by the empty spaces of the last frames of the film. Where are all these people? But no. There were, but they ended … And a whole minute of a black screen, behind which even the music fell silent.
One might get the impression that all these people themselves are to blame for the fact that they have turned, frankly, into moral freaks. However, there is something about the most important priest-hero that does not correspond to the image of a martyr-hero. He himself defines his guilt as “detachment.” Expressed, I will add, in particular, inconsistency.
Twice in the film we are talking about the Church: for the first time, when an unexpected church sponsor, a shocking talker, mockingly, with a mockery, half-asks, half-asserts, they say, because the Church is rich, to which the priest grimly and solemnly answers: “The Church. Not me”; the second time, when the priest is reminded that, they say, yes, father, your church burned down, he reacts: “Not mine. Our”.
In the latter case, there are wonderful words, but there were also those that were said above … He really worries about the people around him, it hurts him that he cannot help them, despite his generosity and sense of humor, he is literally destroyed the situation with the father of a girl he accidentally met on the road, a man who practically called him a pedophile for an innocent short conversation with a child.
Is he to blame for the fact that there are, shall we say, other priests? Is he guilty of honestly dealing with the affairs and needs of his parish, not paying too much attention to what is happening in the world? Is it to blame for delving into the problems of real neighbors, and not trying to reach out with his participation to, say, suffering African children? The director does not answer. He leaves his hero to answer, but for himself.
If everyone around is to blame, then what’s the point? Or what could be the outcome in such a situation? The point is that a person can change – start learning to believe, forgive and love. To do this, in addition to the priest, three characters are introduced into the story: his daughter, that same outrageous talker who does not know what to do with his unrighteous wealth, and a woman who lost her husband in an absurd car accident. Without them, we would only talk about the gloomy past and the hopeless present, but their images turn the viewer to the future.
In the past – the personal tragedies of the heroes, explicit or implied, in the present – moral and personal emptiness, a dead end, hell … And in the future – a loser-daughter who learned from her father to forgive even his murderer; an outwardly wealthy person who realized his internal insolvency and decided to trust the priest; a woman who knows how to love and showed the main character – the priest, just think! – how it is done (“At first I thought that I couldn’t, and then I realized that I could”), which ultimately determined his further actions, which led him to a fatal finale on the seashore.
Everyone made their choice: someone remained in the past, someone mummified in the present, someone creates the future, the future of the penitent, strong in spirit and faith, loving and forgiving losers. The priest ended up in eternity, left the stage …
And then we have to choose – the laity, priests, monks, bishops …