THE 58th London Film Festival, which finishes on Sunday,
showcases films to look out for, not least for those with a
religious frame of mind. Beware, though, of titles such as The
Salvation, Leviathan, Hard to be a God, which aren't
necessarily of a spiritual nature - whereas a film such as
Excuse My French is.
A Coptic boy lands up in a Muslim-dominated school and colludes
with their assumption that he is one of them, leading to amusing
consequences. It is heartening to know how popular the film has
been in Egypt, where Christian-Muslim relations have been so tense.
In Snow in Paradise, a teenager actually converts to Islam
to fit into a gang of East Enders. This true story is proof
positive of Agnes Allen's Law: almost anything is easier to get
into than out of. Intense spiritual and moral dilemmas ensue.
Cheerfulness and faith are not inevitable partners. In
Silent Storm, the church minister (Damian Lewis) on a
Scottish island is austere. His long-suffering wife (Andrea
Riseborough) is not.
Christophe Honoré's thought-provoking Metamorphoses
gives Ovid a contemporary setting. Orpheus becomes a hot-gospelling
preacher on a council estate, and the father of the gods is a
belligerent lorry driver.
Abel Ferrara, no stranger to controversy, re-envisages the
Italian director's last day in Pasolini. This includes
seeking the place of Jesus's birth amid a gay orgy and a Dante-like
descent into hell.
I'm looking forward to seeing La Sapienza by Eugène
Green. The Portugese Nun (Arts, 28 January 2011) was a
fine contemplative piece, and his latest getting of wisdom by way
of architecture, love, and music promises much.
A priest faces the difficult task (From What Is Before)
of helping parishioners keep their faith. Already living in squalid
conditions, these Filipinos are besieged by mysterious disasters
threatening their livelihood.
Poverty is hardly the issue in Gett - The Trial of Viviane
Ansalem. An Israeli woman spends five years of legal wrangles
in a rabbinical court trying to get divorced. Faith is as much at
stake as justice.
What constitutes sacrilege is The Dead Lands'
concern, a Maori-language thriller. An adolescent
boy seeks vengeance for his father's murder, but pursuing the
guilty party would involve a route through forbidden holy ground.
Ending on a lighter note, Villa Touma also deals with who
has rights to occupy certain land. Three maiden aunts, devout
Palestinian Christians, believe that marriage is the only form of
security for their niece. In a series of comic vignettes, they take
her church-hopping, only to encounter a world from which these
patrician women have previously been sheltered.
Many of these films have yet to obtain a future UK release date;
so look out, at least, for DVD and Blu-ray versions in due