The films of writer and director Paul Schrader hold little room for rosy notions of the perfectability of man. The title character in his screenplay for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is a loner cut off from reality, an isolated misfit whose diet of pornography and gun fantasies transforms him into a psychopathic vigilante. And the distraught, God-fearing father in Hardcore searches the seamy underworld of commercial sex for his daughter who walked away from a Young Calvinist convention to become a prostitute.
In spite of the existential randomness of events in Schrader’s films, his is a world of the fallen man, the original sinner of Calvinist doctrine who sojourns in a latter-day Sodom. But though his vision of man’s sin remains true to his upbringing in the Christian Reformed Church and his education at Calvin College, Schrader’s bleak cinematic vision has until now lacked the other side of the equation—grace and redemption.
Schrader’s latest film, Light of Day, moves a step closer to a full-orbed view of the human condition by offering a view of a broken people who are at least susceptible to healing.
Light of Day portrays a modern midwestern family without a center: an ineffectual father, a couch potato who desires nothing more than the oblivion of television, and who winces as his wife tries to “witness” to their daughter who gave birth out of wedlock; a daughter, a bar-band singer who refuses to hear anything about religion; and a son, who tries to bridge the chasm between his well-meaning mother and venomous sister. This son, who (Schrader says) is modeled after himself, loves them both and understands that their belligerence belies a deeper love turned malignant. ...1
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