Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

‘Risen’ Is the Real Thing Among Religious Films

My prediction is that the film “Risen,” which is out in theaters right now, will be nominated for no Academy Awards next year. My recommendation is that, if you haven’t seen it already, you should go to see it this weekend.

Starring Joseph Fiennes, “Risen” is one of the best religious films I’ve ever seen, but it’s not the type of movie that gets a lot of recognition from the Motion Picture Academy of America.

“Risen” is the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus as seen through the eyes of a Roman tribune, Clavius.

An ambitious Roman officer stationed in Jerusalem during the week that was destined to be called holy, Clavius is charged with finding out what really happened to the body of the dead Nazarene that His followers were claiming had risen from the dead.

Clavius does find the body of the Lord but it is alive and present among those who believe in Him. The film makes the case for a bodily resurrection – not simply a symbolic one – in a reasonable and rational way. There are no floating bodies and no exploding tombs. Just the presence of Jesus eating with and walking among those who believe.

“Risen” does not fall into the trap of being sappy and pious but it describes miracles, apparitions and wonders as real events that happened in real time. At the same time, they are not depicted as simply ordinary events, but signs of the transcendent existing in space and time.

When the Apostles are hungry and need food, they put out into the deep in their boat to fish but come up empty-handed. Jesus, walking along the shore, tells them to recast their nets on the right side, which they do, and they come up with a bountiful catch.

Only then do they recognize the Lord in the stranger on the seashore and they bolt from their boat to greet Him.

The final scene that depicts how the Ascension might have occurred is simple and yet, majestic. Jesus walks up a hillside, and disappears from view as the sun rises in all its glory. He waves goodbye and moves out of sight.

Filmed in Spain and Malta, the scenes of the desert and the seashores are breath-taking and majestic.

“Risen” is a great Lenten meditation. It is a film that has been released at exactly the right time as we prepare to remember and reenact the sacred events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Groups of parishioners will enjoy going to the theater together and then speculating whether this may have indeed been the manner in which these events took place.

Several actors are outstanding in their roles. In addition to Fiennes’ lead, Peter Firth makes a despicable Pontius Pilate and Tom Felton is a thoroughly believable Lucius, an ambitious, junior officer who hopes to take advantage of being a family friend of Pilate.

Cliff Curtis plays Jesus in a rather low-key, yet inspirational manner. His smile is infectious and his character is inviting.

One warning is that there are some violent scenes when Romans display their might among the populace of Jerusalem, especially the bloody crucifixion scene. But the gory material is not enough to keep you or your children away from the movie. Nevertheless, the Catholic News Service classification is for adults, adding that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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