Much as we love independent and foreign film here at Christianity Today Movies, there isn't always room on our bill of fare to serve up those off-the-beaten-path movie morsels that sometimes offer more food for the soul than the average commercial flick.
So we're launching "Movie Gourmet," a quarterly article featuring a buffet of smaller films that might premiere at a remote film festival or play in limited release before making their way to random art houses and revival theatres. You know the saying, "Coming soon to a theater near you"—with these flicks, there's no guarantee. But fret not—you'll certainly have access to them on video some day, if not already.
Some films featured in this article may be way off the beaten track—perhaps virtually unseen on big screens in North America, but well worth tracking down for its spiritual and artistic content. With that, here's our first sampling of delectable films with a distinctly spiritual flavor—gourmet fare not likely to be served at your local fast-film franchise, but certain to delight the most discerning cinematic palate.
Our Feature Presentation
Hawaii, Oslo (2004) was a huge hit in its native Norway before being submitted as that country's official entry for the 2005 Academy Awards. It's a kaleidoscopic film that follows a dozen characters whose fates converge on an Oslo street corner one hot summer night.
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The intricately constructed narrative draws comparisons to other multi-plot films with morality (or even metaphysics) on their minds, Magnolia and Crash in particular. Doug Cummings notes that "it resembles a companion piece to Kieslowski's The Decalogue compressed into a two hour feature, less notable for its aesthetic innovations than for its emotional clarity and ethical complexity." What strike me are the similarities to Tom Tykwer, both visually and thematically—Run Lola Run, Heaven, and The Princess and The Warrior are all referenced. How's that for a pedigree!
There's little I can say about Hawaii, Oslo without spoiling its revelations and spelling out its mysteries. If you take my advice and track down a copy—it's a particularly rich film for repeat viewings or group discussion—be careful little eyes what you read: reviews, film festival blurbs, and especially the descriptions at online rental sites are likely to rob you of a good deal of the film's narrative and thematic satisfaction. The screenwriter is careful to reveal character interconnections gradually, artfully, and much of the story's richness lies in the challenge of discerning who's who, and who's whose.
More than anything, Hawaii, Oslo is a film about salvation—not necessarily divine, though the film does gesture in that direction, but mostly just the common, human variety that quietly sustains the world day after day. It's a film about the quiet ways that ordinary people save each other, or strive to, or fail to, but manifest something glorious even in the striving. (For more, click here.)
Metropolitan(1990), Whit Stillman's subtle, sophisticated and and oh-so-Austenian film, is a recent Criterion release. "A Mighty Fortress" heralds the opening credits, an elegant piano violin arrangement that quickly gives way to the film's neo-Jazz Age theme. There's a shot of the Pan Am building, its windows illuminated in the shape of a cross, then we're swept up into the world of debutante balls and exclusive Park Avenue afterparties, beginning—strangely enough—with an intense after-midnight conversation about the existence of God.