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Ordinand’s film portrays St Cuthbert as a man with doubts

03 November 2023

Oliver Murray

A still from Cuthbert: A mystical short film

A still from Cuthbert: A mystical short film

ST CUTHBERT stands on the beach, gnawing on an onion. “What can I do for you?” he asks a flock of ducks in front of him.

Filmed on the Northumberland coast, Cuthbert: A mystical short film for now shows the saint in confrontation with a bitter and mocking version of himself: “The Word became this and that, the Logos, yes yes, God,” says this tempter sarcastically. “You struggle in vain for the ineffable light, to find nothing real.”

This taunting version of St Cuthbert wears a rough white habit, but not the golden Greek cross around the neck which identifies the resolute, if troubled, saint, who defends his life of prayer and solitude, and orders his deceiver to depart.

The 11-minute short film, which can be viewed on YouTube, was made by Oliver Murray, an ordinand at St Hild College. It was one of three short films honoured at the Sheffield Christian Film and Media Festival in October.

Mr Murray studied film as an undergraduate, and, in the decade since he graduated, he has continued to make films.

The idea for this film came to him on a trip to Lindisfarne. “I was quite captivated by it — I found it enchanting — and the stories of the northern saints,” he said.

In a recent interview, the Archbishop of York said that “the saints of the north, who shaped and brought the Christian faith to the north, are alive in the culture. And I don’t just mean the church culture: they are alive in the culture in a way that you don’t really get in the south” (News, 11 October).

It is a description with which Mr Murray, a northerner himself, agrees. On a visit to Durham Cathedral, before he professed a faith, he recalls seeing a young woman in tears by St Cuthbert’s grave, and thinking “Wow, there’s something here — a cultural memory that seems even to transcend Christianity.”

St Cuthbert is something of a “local hero” in Mr Murray’s eyes. In the film, the actor Alexander Clifford portrays the saint as a man troubled by his military past and his decision to become an ascetic.

The film does not tell a straightforward story, but captures something of what it is to suffer from doubts and isolation. Mr Murray hopes that it can help to communicate the Christian message.

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