Tag Archives: ralph fiennes

Movie Review: RISEN Doesn’t Rise to Occasion

22 Feb

Risen starring Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, Luther) is the latest in a growing number of faith-based films.  The story is loosely based on the mention of a Roman centurion who after Jesus’ terrible crucifixion exclaimed, “Surely this man was the son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) Fiennes plays Clavius, a Roman tribune, who after investigating the claims of Jesus’ resurrection becomes a believer himself. (Sorry for the spoiler, but you knew it was coming.)

Let’s start with the positive aspects of Risen.  While the plot wasn’t gripping, Joseph Fiennes did a good job as Clavius, especially in those opening battle scenes to help us establish that Clavius was a tough soldier.  It was interesting to see Fiennes transition from the roles of Shakespeare to Luther to Clavius, and he certainly bulked up for this film.  As a fan of Fiennes and his brother, Ralph, I primarily wanted to see Risen because I like Joseph Fiennes.  I was not disappointed as the movie contained plenty of Fiennes goodness and I didn’t have to put up with him kissing other women.

The biblically accurate scenes, such as the depiction of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to the disciples along the Sea of Galilee found in John 21, were good.  Even though there is no mention of a Roman centurion tagging along on their fishing trip, I enjoyed seeing the disciples once again receive fishing advice from a stranger onshore who they later recognize as Jesus.

The costumes, sets, and other imagery seemed very realistic…or at least better than the cheap Roman soldier outfits we use at church during Holy Week.  I found myself interested in the setting, the rooms, the outfits, and even interested in the architecture of the period.  This, to me, was a highlight of the film.

Finally, of course, I appreciated that it was none other than Tom Felton, who portrayed Draco Malfoy in several of the Harry Potter films, who was Clavius’ attendant.  Harry Potter fans might find this especially amusing since Fiennes’ brother, Ralph, is Lord Voldemort in the same franchise.  Unfortunately, Felton can’t seem to catch a break because he still played a villain.

My biggest complaint about Risen is the departure from biblical narrative.  While some of this is necessary in reimagining a story, I believe Risen took it too far.  I started to squirm in my seat when Clavius discovered Jesus sitting with His disciples and Mary Magdalene in the Upper Room.  My discomfort grew after Clavius followed and befriended the 11 disciples (Judas not among them, obviously).  But when Clauvius was part of Jesus’ reunion with His disciples in Galilee, my stomach did flips and I nearly walked out when Clavius and Jesus had a heart-to-heart in the middle of the night.  While all these things might have happened, there is no biblical evidence to support this whatsoever.  Since I attended the movie with my youth group, I felt the need to lean over to the sixth grader sitting next to me to inform her of the parts that weren’t actually in the Bible.

Also in the realm of scriptural inaccuracies in Risen is one of my pet peeves—the incorrect portrayal of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute.  In fact, Scripture says Jesus drove seven demons out of Mary (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2).  Could she have displayed promiscuous behavior?  Possibly.  However, there is no evidence in the Bible this was the case.  Risen suggests that Mary did business with half of the Roman army before her life-changing encounter with Jesus.

While Clavius was a character with dimension, everyone else is a caricature of a goofy disciple, born-again radical, or a fool more concerned with power than truth.  While this makes for great comedy relief, high drama, and inspiration, it doesn’t make an award-winning (or even interesting) film.  Even though these characters exist to move the plot forward, they do so at a terribly slow pace.  In fact, when my sixth grade friend dumped her cup of ice on her lap, I was just about to doze off.  It was that boring.

Most of all, I was disappointed in the potential this movie had.  Instead of producing a mediocre tale about Jesus’ resurrection with made-up, feel good stories, it could have told a greater, more realistic story about the centurion, perhaps how his new belief caused great distress in his position, possibly including persecution in the early church.  Understandably, there parallels to Clavius’ search and a believer’s own search for truth and perhaps this is what the movie was trying to portray.  But it just lost me.

Risen starts out strong and loses steam as it continues. While there are some notable scenes, the last half of the movie drags on and on. Joseph Fiennes provided great acting, but it wasn’t enough to keep my attention. It was an interesting depiction of the Roman centurion who believed, but so many artistic liberties were taken I fear people will confuse what is in the Bible and what is not.

Movie Review :: The Duchess

1 Oct

By Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer of HeidiTown.com It’s no secret – I am a fan of the period movie.  Marie Antoinette was my favorite movie of 2006, and recently my husband pointed out that there are very few period movies I don’t like. I quickly reminded him of my illustrious opinions of Atonement, a period piece and Oscar nominated movie I intensely disliked.

I was able to see a last minute pre-screening of The Duchess, and I knew very little about the film or the true story of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. Keira Knightley portrays the Duchess, who was married at age 17, to the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). The movie begins at Georgiana’s family estate where the audience becomes painfully aware the marriage has been arranged by Georgiana’s mother and the Duke’s handlers.

At first Georgiana is delighted, but this quickly turns to disappointment as it becomes apparent the two are not a good match. The Duke is single-mindedly set on having a boy and as the years pass the Duchess gives birth to girl after girl. Despite having gained the disdain of her husband, Georgiana becomes a popular socialite on the London scene. She becomes a fashion trendsetter and active campaigner for the Whig party, though women wouldn’t get the vote in England for another hundred years.

The cinematography of The Duchess sets the tone of the story. The camera often pans slowly across elaborate scenes depicting the excesses of the day, and yet there is always a grayish hue to the otherwise lavish scenes. It is as if the director is giving us a glimpse into the reality of Georgiana’s position; in spite of the wealth and privilege her status provides she is married to a man who does not love her and who eventually takes a live-in mistress (Hayley Atwell, most recently in Brideshead Revisited).

Keira Knightley received accolades for her role in Atonement, but I thought she was better in this movie. Georgiana was a complex woman in a time when women were considered and treated as one-dimensional creatures. Knightley is able to portray the multi-faceted personality of the Duchess and make the character relatable to the modern-day woman.

Much has been made of the fact that Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire’s story has similarities to that of Princess Diana (1961-1997). In fact, the two women are related. Diana, Princess of Wales, was a descendant of Georgiana’s brother, the 2nd Earl Spencer. Though some parallels do exist between the lives of these two woman, Keira Knightley has stated that the film has not intentionally tied the stories together. Even Amanda Foreman, the author of the book on which the movie is based has spoken out against the gossip trying to connect the movie to Diana. Still, it is impossible not to recognize similarities in the lives of the two women; each was unwittingly thrust into the public eye, each became an icon of fashion and eventually each became embroiled in very public marital troubles.

Although Keira Knightley performs well, this movie leaves much to be desired. Ralph Fiennes uptight portrayal of the Duke of Devonshire sums up my opinion of this movie – stuffy. It is an adaptation of a biography, not a novel, and therefore it is simply the rather straightforward story of a life and not a particularly significant life (from an historical perspective). Georgiana Cavendish was the flavor of her day, but in reality, she was just another socialite. It is an interesting portrait of how woman were viewed and treated in 18th Century England, but otherwise The Duchess did not really impress me. If you enjoy period pieces, I’d recommend waiting until it comes to DVD.

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a writer living in Northern Colorado with her husband, feisty cat and clever German Shepherd. She is a contributing writer at the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor, as well as co-owner of Ryan Schlaefer Fine Furniture, Inc. available at the Denver Design District. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Heidi has a B.A. in Political Science from Western Washington University. She has always loved movies, books and food; she explores all three at www.HeidiTown.com.

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