Friday, 4 March 2011

The Rite: An Honest Film Review by a (Welsh) Catholic

Braveheart: Is it cos I is Welsh? And who nicked Stirling Bridge?
Last Sunday I (and two young accomplices) attended my local multiplex 'World of Cine' to partake in the cinematic feast that is The Rite, starring that Welsh screen presence, Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Having purchased the tickets and carefully avoided the temptations of the foyer (i.e. overpriced sweets, hot dogs and sticky drinks) we hastened to take our seats, a mere 15 minutes early. Sorry, I mean half an hour early: don't you just loathe cinema adverts? And don't even get me started on trailers that give the entire story of forthcoming films away! I mean come on! I'm not American - neither do I watch Eastenders. You can advertise a film without showing me all the pertinent twists and turns.

I shouldn't even mention the highly suspect advert for a male deodorant with the tag-line "Angels will fall." Ridiculous.

 So onto the film.

What to make of it?

Well, this film suffers from what I shall call 'the curse of Braveheart.'

Yes, Mel Gibson, the Catholic who falls on his way to his own Calvary (just like the rest of us), made a wonderful film that really captured the imagination (especially in Scotland!) and certainly showed the faults of Scotland (and Ireland and Wales) in that cowardice, treachery, greed and heroism were present in equal share.

Yes we saw the heroic Scottish Hero Wallace (Catholic & Welsh: Wallace means "Welshman" most likely descended from the Welsh kingdom of Strathclyde) lay down his very life for his country, but in the shadow of the film the gainsayers were quick to quip: 'but it's inaccurate.'

The Battle of Stirling Bridge (the topic of the Corries quite superb song of the same name), was bridgeless! The idea that the Queen of England's daughter was Wallace's. All this and more stretched the credibility and plausibility of a genuinely moving and heroic story.

What were we to believe? Did Wallace kill the traitor Lords? Did the Irish mercenaries switch sides to join the Scots? We (unless we are experts, unless we take a year off to read all the history books, or unless - and this is stretching it a wee bit - we were there) just can't say for sure what was fact and what was a bit of Hollywood license.

We can try to make educated guesses, but what then of the uneducated viewer? Will he dismiss it all as a story with a mere toe dipped in the truth? Or will he swallow it whole just as some people think all homosexuals are loving, caring, monogamous etc. following storylines from TV soap operas?

And therein lies the problem for The Rite.

I enjoyed the film, and as so often is the case with a good film, enjoy the cinematography, the scenes in which the action is set etc. Just seeing the Vatican and Rome in a film that isn't wildly anti-Catholic was a treat, albeit just a glimpse now and then of the Mass would have been "nice" -- but that's not to detract from the wonderful Catholic 'feel' of the film.

My problem however is going away and wondering "was that bit real/true."

I won't give too much away in case you haven't seen the film yet, but there is a major part of the film in which (let's say) a 'famous' person is possessed by a demon (Baal I believe). Now I know the actual person the film character is based on, and I'm sure I'd have read somewhere, or heard from someone if he had been possessed.

It just left me wondering too much and, for me, undermined the premise of a quite wonderful film with a powerful message: i.e. that Satan does exist (and thus proves the existence of God).

The priest, on whose story the film is based (Fr G Thomas), says that all the film is spot on, bar his character being a deacon and having doubts about the Faith. Which leaves me wondering if much else in the film was an absolute faithful transcript of events (some of the 'happenings' being quite extraordinary).

So,all in all I would give the film a thumbs up. It is enjoyable. It does make you think. It may convert the occasional soul. The last image of a Catholic going to Confession was very powerful.

But, personally, I would have preferred a powerful Catholic film without the 'opt out' available to atheists etc. of "most of it isn't true."

Despite my "purist" grumblings I would still give it a healthy 9 out of 10, and before chatting through the pros and cons of the film (so as not to cloud their judgement) my two young minders (helping me avoid any elderly stumbles on uneven floors) gave it 9 out of 10 too.

Two Things to Look Out For:
  • The Welsh writing/graffiti on the wall in the final exorcism scenes.
  • The moving last rites scene as the girl on the bicycle dies.

1 comment:

  1. I went to the see The Rite on Wednesday with a priest friend of mine and he said that the actual exorcism(s) were similar to what he has been told by other priests (who have performed exorcisms)