We watched The Apostle last night. Now that’s one sweet Christian movie. One of the difficulties in making a film about faith is that movies are, well, motion pictures. They are pictures that move, and faith is an inner, invisible gift. This is why so many Catholic films about saints are worthy, but boring. The real adventure in a saint’s life is invisible and within. How do you show a saint’s interior struggles? The film maker too often resorts to having the saint kneeling before a crucifix talking out loud to Jesus. That’s just dumb. Who does that?
How else do you show outwardly the inner struggles of faith? You have to work with a saint who is active and busy in the world. Some saints are good subjects because they were so active, and had such an adventuresome life.
This is where Duvall’s work of love (he wrote, directed and starred in the film) triumphs. We see the evangelist Sonny in his successful church with a happy family, and then we see all of it taken away from him, and we see him murder his wife’s lover before going on the run. He starts another little church, and through the process we see him soften and become the tender hearted pastor he always wanted to be. That he gives himself up and winds up on a chain gang is a sweet justice. Through the whole drama we see the cosmic transaction of sin, repentance, grace and forgiveness played out in Sonny’s tough life.
It’s a profound picture–full of sweetness and light.