First Reformed

First Reformed

Genre:   Drama, Thriller
Relase Date:  18 May 2018
Director Paul Schrader
Runtime: 1h 48min

Movie Bio :   After more than 20 features, Paul Schrader has been reborn with First Reformed, an unhurried, furious, deeply agonized look at faith and skepticism that’s as reverent as it is blasphemous. Schrader works within a genre one could call citational cinema, with reference points and influences commingling to dictate aesthetics and ideas. Here, he uses architecture and environment to frame his subjects, recalling Yasujirō Ozu, from whom Schrader has often borrowed, and he taps into the stoical, ecclesiastical guilt of Ingmar Bergman. After the dyspeptic sleaze of The Canyons and the chaos of Dog Eat Dog, Schrader has returned to a more classical style of filmmaking, a style redolent of Ozu, Robert Bresson, and Carl Theodor Dreyer. First Reformed is his paean to slow cinema, a steadily simmering, unostentatious apogee collating the obsessions that have driven the filmmaker for 50 years. 

First Reformed begins with a relic. The camera encroaches upon a looming, starkly white Dutch Reform Church in upstate New York. Inside is Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke), a middle-aged ex-military chaplain, a longtime servant of God, now in charge of the historic and antiquated First Reformed, which is more tourist attraction than functioning place of worship. The church’s gift shop sells one-size-fits-all baseball caps, its attendance is miniscule, and its organ doesn’t work—a metaphor, perhaps, for Toller’s chastity, and for the desire that the reverend tries so hard to expunge and ignore.

Toller’s son, cajoled into enlisting in the armed services by his father, died in the Iraq War, and Toller’s relationship with his faith has been tumultuous and unstable since. The local congregation has emigrated to the town’s megachurch, Abundant Life, replete with state-of-the-art big-screen televisions and stadium seating and lead by the galvanizing potentate Pastor Jeffers (Cedric the Entertainer). Toller seems to be kept on a short leash by Jeffers, who’s overseeing First Reformed’s 250th anniversary re-consecration celebration, funded (and influenced) by the corrupt and vehement corporate CEO Edward Balq (Michael Gaston), a denier of climate change whose company, we learn, is one of the world’s worst environmental offenders.

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