This is an example of the ideas behind a film overshadowing the story of the film. That the ideas are interesting -- what is a human? do we need to kill god in order to be free? what are we to do in the face of our mortality? -- means forgiving the mediocre story isn't as hard as it ought to be. Still, while acknowledged as a postmodern work, the film commits the very modern sin of making the story a vehicle for some big ideas, rather than making the story the idea. A film like The Matrix accomplishes the latter with much more success, as does the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and they are all the better for it.
Still, cult classic, and all that.
The Mill & The Cross
This is not so much a film about a painting as it is a painting come to life. It is, quite literally, a moving picture that intends to capture Bruegel's The Way to Calvary on the big screen. The film/painting is set in 16th century Belgium, with the persecution of reformers at the hand of Spanish Catholics providing the context for a re-showing of the passion narrative of the gospels. But as Bruegel (played by Rutger Hauer, famous for appearing as Metropolis crime boss Morgan Edge on television's Smallville) tells us, the significance of the passion is lost on the crowds, who go about their daily lives as if the suffering portrayed in front of them is irrelevant for putting bread on the table. That, after all, is what the mill is for.
Though lacking subtlety, the beauty of the film is in showing, during a moment of complete pause, that these two objects -- the mill and the cross -- are not so different.
While Blade Runner is a film that uses the story as a vehicle for ideas, The Apostle is a film that provides a vehicle for a quite magnificent performance from Robert Duvall. He plays a charismatic (in every sense of the word) preacher in the south, whose broken marriage and criminal acts force him to start over with a new identity as self-appointed apostle "E.F." whose mission it is to plant a church and find again what he had lost. It should come as no surprise that a film about a pentecostal preacher is fraught with theological missteps and idiosyncrasies. Some are endearing, some are not. But given the over all picture of pentecostalism that Duvall creates, I was left with the feeling that the only real way for E.F. to achieve redemption was for him to abandon his pentecostal heritage. That may say more about me than about this film, which is worth seeing for the performance alone.