I'll probably catch some flak for this one. Dogma is Kevin Smith’s satire on the church. More specifically the Catholic church, but I think he wants to hit any church that believes a man speaks in absolution, hence the clever title. The film is about a couple of angles that God cast out of heaven long ago, and a cardinal who speaks an absolution that creates a loophole for the angels to get back into heaven. And if they do a decree of God (played by Alanis Morissette) will be overturened and therefore reality will cease to exist. This film is not profoundly theological, but it is a comment on the dogma of the church. Which is a topic I have much interest in, so Dogma rounds out the bottom of my list of 5.
This film makes my list based on the
One of my favorite Jesus narratives comes just after his forty day fast in the wilderness. Satan comes to tempt him and he has this amazing presence of mind to quote scripture. We don’t have a gospel representation of Satan in the garden, but if Satan was going to tempt Jesus again…. I thought Gibson’s portrayal of Satan in general was impressive. Impressive enough to earn The Passion of the Christ this spot in my top 5.
This film is based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a young German woman who suffered the same fate as the fictional Emily Rose in the 1970s. The whole film plays out like a courtroom drama, with accompanying flashbacks to the real situation. The theology of the movie, for me, comes in the verdict of the trial. The priest who performs the exorcism is on trial for criminal negligence that leads to the death of Emily. The verdict comes in and the judge reads it. Guilty. Then a small voice from the jury box says that they have a sentencing suggestion. The judge hears it over the protest of the prosecutor and the jury says to sentence him to time served. So the judge reads the verdict again and this is the kicker, “Father Moore, you are guilty, and you are free to go.”
We think of salvation primarily as penal substitutionary atonement. I can envision, if at the end of my time I stand trial and God sits as judge, the voice of Jesus from the jury box saying, “Time Served, Debt Paid.” And God may say to me, “Reno Wilson, you are guilty, and you are free to go.”
Now this movie has little to say about God and who He is, but it gives us an outright profound look at Satan’s manipulation. The first time I heard the speech that follows I almost found myself in agreement. This is what John Milton (Al Pacino), who is Satan, says to the protagonist late in the film. Please excuse the profanity; it is not my intent to offend.
“I'm here on the ground with my nose in it since the whole thing began. I've nurtured every sensation man's been inspired to have. I cared about what he wanted and I never judged him. Why? Because I never rejected him, in spite of all his imperfections. I'm a fan of man. I'm a humanist. Maybe the last humanist.”
“Let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He's a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does He do, I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It's the goof of all time. Look but don't touch. Touch, but don't taste. Taste, don't swallow. Ahaha. And while you're jumpin' from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He's laughin' His sick, fuckin' ass off. He's a tight-ass. He's a sadist. He's an absentee landlord. Worship that? Never.”I almost want to join in the chorus. Yeah. “Look but don’t touch.” What’s that all about? At the very end of the movie Satan tells us what his favorite sin is, “Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.” Those of you who know me know that I think pride is the root of all sin, so this little comment rings true for me. So here atop my list is a film about the manipulation of evil.