THE FOLD (Cert. 15) begins with a quotation
from Rainer Maria Rilke: "I want to unfold . . . because there
where I'm folded I am a lie." The poem from which it comes may (or
may not) be a cry to God to undo the creases and shake out whatever
grime is secreted in our folded-up lives.
Catherine McCormack (who came to prominence in
Braveheart, 1995) plays Rebecca Ashton. She is the newly
arrived priest of a small Cornish parish. The film uses the church
at Gunwalloe on the Lizard. Unlike Rebecca, its real priest (who
with his wife features in one scene as a member of the
congregation) has several parishes to run. It is also strange that
Rebecca appears not to have seen the church to which she has been
appointed, despite previously visiting the parish.
The preceding incumbent had an open-door policy, but,
with one exception, we never see a parishioner cross the threshold
of this remote vicarage or telephone the new incumbent. But why let
such inconvenient facts interfere with a story that is, ultimately,
Leaving her husband behind, Rebecca travels with their
teenage daughter Eloise (Dakota Blue Richards) to the West Country
to take up religious duties. They cross the Clifton Suspension
Bridge, notorious for suicides, thus providing a visual symbol of
how the Ashtons' elder daughter had died.
Rebecca's work includes helping to staff a Redruth
community centre for disadvantaged young people. One of these is a
Bulgarian girl, Radka (Marina Stoimenova), whom she has already
discovered sleeping rough in church. The young woman is in grief,
too - in her case, for the home she has left behind and the lack of
someone to mother her. She repeatedly self-harms.
Rebecca is drawn to her more as a substitute for her
deceased daughter than as a parishioner to be cared for pastorally.
This lack of professional judgement in someone with a duty of care
is, of course, what creates the dramatic conflict necessary to move
the plot along. And, while there is swift action on the part of the
community centre faced with inappropriate behaviour, we are left to
guess whether the diocesan authorities either know or do anything
about it - and, likewise, whether the priest's inner turmoil is a
crisis of faith.
We glimpse this best at a church choir rehearsal - Truro
Cathedral, actually - of a setting (especially composed for the
film) of Psalm 130: "Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O
Lord". As Rebecca and Radka sit listening, the younger woman
recounts her earlier inability to see the light of God. She now
perceives this in her priest and new-found friend.
It is not so simple for Rebecca. There is still a deal
of straightening what goes erringly yet to happen. The film charts
this deeply wounded pastor's search for that "plenteous redemption"
that Psalm 130 offers those who trust in God. Whether the film
delivers an unfolding that is congruent with an openness to God may
well depend, like readings of Rilke's poem, on where you choose to
WHEN is a miracle a miracle? Only if the Vatican says
so. Or, at least, that is what sets The Borderlands (Cert.
15) off on its paranormal journey. Interestingly, it is the church
officials Father Mark (Aidan McArdle) and Brother Deacon (Gordon
Kennedy) who are the sceptics rather than Gray (Rob Hill), the
technician they hire to install CCTV and other electronic equipment
to assist investigations.
A West Country congregation has witnessed, capturing it
on video, the altar shaking during a baptism undertaken by the
parish priest, Father Crellick (Luke Neal). The film builds on the
"found footage" idea used in The Blair Witch Project
(1999), and no doubt comparisons will be made. Elliot Goldner,
however, who wrote and directed The Borderlands, develops
the notion beyond just seeing scraps of supposedly eyewitness
filming. Instead, this is a consummately edited piece that builds
up to a chilling climax. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
What makes this much more than a scary movie, however,
is the interplay between the three investigators. After spending
time in the recently reopened ancient church, Gray (who "believes
in stuff" but isn't, perhaps, a Christian) asks the men from the
Vatican "Don't you feel something?" But they, who have researched
so many previous claims about miracles, are forever looking for
rational explanations, including smoke-and-mirrors trickery. In a
scene reminiscent of The Exorcist, the annoyed parish
priest wrestles with, if not the devil, his very own soul in
efforts to convince them of what happened . . . and continues to
happen. If the many things that go bump in the night aren't
convincers, then what will be?
The arrival of the unorthodox Father Calvino (Patrick
Godfrey, introducing a humane element into ecclesiastical
bureaucracy) is one factor. Prepared to take the occurrences
seriously, he draws on the advice that Pope Gregory the Great gave
the British mission: "By no means destroy the temples of the
heathen gods but rather the idols that are within those temples.
When you have purified them with holy water, place altars
All of this invites the question what kind of holy
ground the team is standing on. Gray makes the point that pagan
religions worshipped what they could see, like the sun or trees,
whereas Christianity is all about "What if . . . ?" It is the
transcendent nature of Catholic belief that is being examined in
the film. Calvino's presence triggers for Deacon a more
incarnational approach to faith, one in which pain and suffering
are realities to be struggled with before any hope of redemption is
possible, even when at a terrible cost. It is little wonder that
Gray gives up on church commissions. "I'm going back to
corporates," he yells. "It's boring, but it's a lot less grief. Dan
Brown was right about you lot."
I doubt whether viewers will agree. They have seen too
much not, at the very least, to ponder those borderlands between
"real" and spiritual worlds.
Both films are released today.