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First Reformed (2017) Netflix Review: A Dark Opera For The Soul

First Reformed (2017) Netflix Review: A Dark Opera For The Soul

First Reformed Netflix

First Reformed. Is this a film? Or a peek into our many insanities, our dark recesses, our deep despairs and our longing for hope, our clinging to straws of light.

“How easily they talk about prayer, those who have never really prayed.”

What happens when you cling to despair for long, when it sucks on your soul and makes you bleed internally. You become half a man. You maybe a pastor, a preacher of life-affirming sermons, but deep within you live with your ghosts, a hell of your own making, you drink like an alcoholic, and you write and you think. You think of what we have done to this world, will God ever forgive us? But “who can know the mind of God?,” you say counterintuitively.

You levitate with the one you have begun to care for and you witness the depredations of mankind, the havoc we have wreaked on this earth and you wonder if this is a world to bring a child into? And then you think of your dead son in Iraq, your estranged wife, your broken life and feel that there is no loss greater than a child being taken away forever.

 


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There is despair. And then there is hope. These countervailing forces exist within you, they exert their pulls, you think of wisdom as a balancing act between the two, and you carry on. Till you snap. In a dramatic denouement that makes art bigger than life. And then there is she. Hope incarnated. In the form of Mary and she carries a seed within. You rush to her and envelop her, tightly, kiss her like you have never kissed anyone before. You embrace life. Hope wins.

But is there despair lurking in the corner? Sulking, waiting to strike? We don’t know. We may never know. In the distance, plays the organ. Let’s wash all our sins in the soul-cleansing blood of the lamb. Glory to our lord. Hail Mary, the saviour of the lost!

First Reformed. A dark opera for the soul. A slow dance of the dialectics. Shot in a boxy aspect ratio, not widescreen by design, perhaps to convey a sense of claustrophobic closing in of a certain faithlessness and hopelessness, the bleakness that gnaws, corrodes and kills.

 


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Is this a film? Or a peek into our many insanities, our dark recesses, our deep despairs and our longing for hope, our clinging to straws of light.

Ethan Hawke is in a never-before role in this austere treatise on life and the master writer-director, Paul Schrader, delivers a deeply disturbing parable on love, longing, despair and hope.

Hope wins.

“The desire for prayer is itself a prayer,” so let us all pray for redemption. And deliverance. Hail Mary, the angel of love!

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Rating: 4.25/5

Where to Watch: Netflix

 

By Sanjay Trehan

 


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