Jun 182012
 

Poster for the film For Greater GloryThe historical attack on Catholic Religious Liberty began really at the founding of the Church. We’re experiencing something of it now, although in our mostly money-mediated modern milieu it looks much different. It came on with a vengence at the time of the Protestant Revolt, and again at the time of the Communist Revolutions (yes, plural) of the early 20th century. For Greater Glory is (part of) this story in Mexico, which was at least a brutal repression as anything done in 16th century England. The film is still on two screens in the St. Louis area; one in Creve Coeur west of 270 on Olive, and the other in St. Charles.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson is calling on all parishes in the archdiocese to participate in a Religious Liberty Weekend of activities June 23-24 in conjunction with the U.S. bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom. My own recommendation would be to go see this film before this coming weekend, and then go to some of the events and shout ¡Viva Cristo Rey! You should expect to hear in response ¡Que Viva!

There are film critics more knowledgeable than I am to comment on the technical merits but I’m going to wade in a bit. The cinematography is very, very good. The film looks great — this is a professional production in every way, and it shows. According to IMDb, the budget is estimated to have been $12MM. But I found the writing uneven: the part of Mexican President Plutarcho Calles very, very well done and finely acted by Rubén Blades. Yes, that really was the name of a Socialist President: Plutarco. Peter O’Toole’s Father Christopher was perfect. I was less pleased with Andy Garcia’s General Enrique Gorostieta Velarde — it is difficult for me to tell whether it was the script or the performance, but what should have come off as the confident swagger of a successful revolutionary turned mercenary came off rather more like, well, badly acted arrogance. It is also unclear to me whether the script was written originally in Spanish or in English. If it was written in Spanish, the process of translation would’ve discarded some nuance. Oscar Issac’s Victoriano ‘El Catorce’ Ramirez was superb though.

As far as I can tell, the film is a decent portrayal of the events of the Christero War in Mexico and captures the personalities of the historical men involved but glosses over some things. For example, the historical Victoriano Ramirez got the nickname ‘El Catorce’ for having killed fourteen men. He probably had at least that many women however, which would seem a somewhat inconvenient fact in a story of men so motivated by their Catholic Faith they’d risk death. He was also killed by his own men apparently out of jealousy. But it is a movie not a documentary, and according to this Zenit interview “essentially accurate”.

The movie is R-rated, probably because of violence. I would not call it excessive. There is no sex, cussing, depiction of immoral acts as moral or vice-versa. I personally would not hesitate to take mid-teens to see this film, with some emphasis on the word “take”. After the film, you might order the companion book being distributed by Ignatius Press. There is also a lot of evidently good material in WikiPedia.

My only “thematic” criticism is the film’s appeal to Liberalism — there is constant talk of “Religious Freedom” and no hint really of the corresponding duty to worship God. We do see the great faith of the Mexican people and we are made to feel their outrage but we are not given so much to understand their reasoning. But this will have to be the subject of another article. Or perhaps a Credo Forum on rights and Religious Freedom.

  2 Responses to “For Greater Glory and the Historical Attack on Catholic Religious Liberty”

  1. Not sure I completely agree with this review. The cinematography was too tight and I thought Andy Garcia was great, wasn’t sold on Peter O’Tool. I thought his character was too animated, but that’s just me. Also, I don’t agree with this statement at all: “My only “thematic” criticism is the film’s appeal to Liberalism — there is constant talk of “Religious Freedom” and no hint really of the corresponding duty to worship God. We do see the great faith of the Mexican people and we are made to feel their outrage but we are not given so much to understand their reasoning.” I left with a complete understanding. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should, you still have time to see it in theaters.

  2. The film is still showing in St. Louis at the two theaters mentioned in the story. Go see it and take some kids. It will be too hot the next few days to do much else.

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