First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

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Roger Ryan
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#101 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Feb 21, 2019 9:21 am

Never Cursed wrote:
Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:01 am
Big Kahuna Burger wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:11 pm
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Just rewatched this last night, and would like to mention a little detail that I think might aid in discerning whether or not the ending is in fact a dying hallucination. Aside from Schrader's abandoned script direction that this moment be the first time the camera moves, I think the strongest piece of evidence would be that Mary is able to enter through a door that Jeffers couldn't get through because it was locked only moments before.
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See, I've thought the same too, but I've always thought of that as evidence of a supernatural force at play in Toller and Mary's interactions rather than Toller hallucinating.
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Schrader points out the locked door in his commentary as the major clue to what he intended with the ending. He offers three possibilities: Mary actually interrupts Toller's suicide attempt (not likely given that locked door); Toller hallucinates Mary's appearance which distracts him from drinking the clog cleaner; Toller's reunion with Mary is a dying hallucination after drinking the clog cleaner. Schrader notes that he doesn't care which version the viewer chooses because, to him, they are all "happy" endings!

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FrauBlucher
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#102 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Apr 07, 2019 9:24 pm

This is a great film. One of Shrader's best, and one can argue his best. I thought the mise en scene was extraordinary.

How in the world did Ethan Hawke not get a nomination. That's shows how bullshit the Academy is.
mfunk wrote:I don't buy into the idea that Toller is a particularly faithful man, in the sense that he is using this vocation as a temporary salve for his wounds rather than a true salvation from them.
I agree with this take. He seemed unsure everytime someone asked for his help or assistance. He would stammer and pause before answering. I found that peculiar for a minister to react that way.
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And when he told Esther that he was disgusted by her, that was shattering to her and brutally shocking coming from a minister. This as well made me question his ministerly vocation
The ending I thought was reality, until I read what mfunk said LQ had suggested. That made sense to me and plays into the other abstract scene
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of floating in space while Mary was lying on top of Toller ....Plus Mary came through the door that was previously locked when Jeffers tried to get in

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Slaphappy
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#103 Post by Slaphappy » Tue Apr 09, 2019 4:39 pm

All the Best People wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:46 am
Very disappointing as I've been a huge advocate of Schrader as a filmmaker and a personality, but after the first hour (as mentioned above, basically a modern spin on Winter Light by way of Diary of a Country Priest), which is intriguing, it just slowly (as also mentioned above) descends into complete self-parody. I almost feel like this is the Schrader film for people who don't like Schrader films, but then some other fans seem to think this is some sort of of crowning achievement rather than the humiliating last gasp I found it to be.
I agree. Really hard not to think about the podcast Schrader did few years ago with Bret Easton Ellis. Back then he told, that when filming Dog Eat Dog they knew there wasn't enough money to make an actually good movie, so they threw in every outrageous idea they could think of hoping to get the some sort of critical mass to make it at least interesting. Even though it’s more minimalist, I got the same vibe from First Reformed. Toller's character is really well thought of and the environmental issues give the movie a huge gravity as do the barren cinematography and Hawke’s performance, but slowly it all starts to feel like another troll job.
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The escalation is very gradual and the bomb west pop up and the bloody suicide surprise are shocking at first. Then comes the waste dump funeral, the duo levitation, the suicide bomber Protestant and finally barbed wire self-punishment before passionate death trip hallucinations. When credits start to roll even the first half starts to seem like a well crafted joke of sorts.

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whaleallright
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#104 Post by whaleallright » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:30 pm

The hysteria of the latter part of the film seemed like an absolutely honest and understandable reaction (both within the world of the film and on Schrader's part) to a civilization bent on suicide. I'm surprised, frankly, that more people don't behave this way, and more filmmakers don't make films like this.

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mfunk9786
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#105 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:48 am

Plenty of evidence (aside from the film's overall quality) that it's very difficult to do something like this right. I would say that Vox Lux, also released last year, has this kind of approach to observing a civilization bent on suicide. It just takes a more circuitous route and leaves more up to the viewer, which is why it probably just isn't quite as good as First Reformed in the cold light of day (but I love it just as much).

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DarkImbecile
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#106 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Jun 27, 2019 2:45 pm

Four injured in attacks by right-wing groups after an outdoor screening of First Reformed in Italy; the local film group sponsoring the screening is drawing attention for its anti-fascist stance.
Schrader compared the ongoing showdown to May 1968, when the riots across France resulted in directors protesting across the country and the cancellation of the Cannes Film Festival. “All of a sudden, we’re having a battle that we had over 50 years ago, when cinema was at the forefront of politics,” Schrader said. “That is cool.”

On Thursday, the group circulated a letter of solidarity with its mission signed by several luminaries of the international film community, including Francis Ford Coppola, Alfonso Cuarón, Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, Guillermo del Toro, and Spike Lee.

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tenia
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#107 Post by tenia » Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:26 pm

After The Last Temptation of Christ, I guess Schrader and faith-based movies are a given when it comes to create these sadly violent reactions. But hey : I doubt Matteo Salvini will say anything about this.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#108 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 02, 2020 1:27 am

I have trouble with any denial of Toller's faith, questioned as not 'genuine' for the same reasons critics call out Laydu in Diary of a Country Priest as selfishly motivated. Who are we to judge his faith, and what are we basing this off of- some idea of priests as monks operating in a fourth dimension of nirvana-esque purity; superhumans incapable of reacting angrily towards others like Esther who pick at their scabs?

Toller is human and demonstrates a very mature presentation of someone committed to faith but grappling with doubt nonetheless, a complex spirituality far more realistic than the cookie-cutter ideals often put forth. Avoiding his own internal struggles dipping into self-pity and external concerns over the state of the world would be inhuman, and it takes a rather scary kind of person to do so (i.e. forfeiting humanity for an absolutist conception of faith). In some ways, those defining faith in these terms are arguing for a different sort of mentally ill priest, with a numbed type of antisocial personality, as ‘one of faith' which I reject as the only kind; or that there was another path for Toller to have taken given his history, which is itself a position of playing God and rejects the saying, "Nothing happens in God's world by mistake" translated as everything is the way it’s supposed to be because that’s the way it is; or that he was doomed altogether through determinism and shouldn't have taken up the cloth.. No option works here if we attempt to issue his merits of faith for him, in our language no less rather than God's; an enigmatic 'logic' (outside of corporeal 'reason') this film is, in my eyes, clearly arguing towards from the getgo, but especially with its fantastical third act.

I love the idea that Schrader views all the endings as "happy" because subjectively to Toller, they all would be, just as his faith is subjective and unmeasurable by us. Our belief that we need that 'truth' is as rigid as an audience judgment of his faith as 'true' or not, as if that operates on a binary plane. The ambiguity of the ending clears aside the waves for God and only God to judge this man, but the visualization of what we do get to see indicates that He (or however we define a higher power, that could easily be an energy of love, clearing conscience in Toller’s mind, body, and soul) seems to be granting some serenity, and that means everything, while the objective concreteness or our evaluations of his faith mean nothing.

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The Pachyderminator
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#109 Post by The Pachyderminator » Tue Dec 08, 2020 6:49 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Nov 02, 2020 1:27 am
I have trouble with any denial of Toller's faith, questioned as not 'genuine' for the same reasons critics call out Laydu in Diary of a Country Priest as selfishly motivated. Who are we to judge his faith, and what are we basing this off of- some idea of priests as monks operating in a fourth dimension of nirvana-esque purity; superhumans incapable of reacting angrily towards others like Esther who pick at their scabs?

Toller is human and demonstrates a very mature presentation of someone committed to faith but grappling with doubt nonetheless, a complex spirituality far more realistic than the cookie-cutter ideals often put forth. Avoiding his own internal struggles dipping into self-pity and external concerns over the state of the world would be inhuman, and it takes a rather scary kind of person to do so (i.e. forfeiting humanity for an absolutist conception of faith). In some ways, those defining faith in these terms are arguing for a different sort of mentally ill priest, with a numbed type of antisocial personality, as ‘one of faith' which I reject as the only kind; or that there was another path for Toller to have taken given his history, which is itself a position of playing God and rejects the saying, "Nothing happens in God's world by mistake" translated as everything is the way it’s supposed to be because that’s the way it is; or that he was doomed altogether through determinism and shouldn't have taken up the cloth.. No option works here if we attempt to issue his merits of faith for him, in our language no less rather than God's; an enigmatic 'logic' (outside of corporeal 'reason') this film is, in my eyes, clearly arguing towards from the getgo, but especially with its fantastical third act.
So I'm totally with you here. Toller's faith is absolutely real. In fact, this wrestling with doubt, this desperate search for the will to choose hope over despair, life over death, is a vital part of any real faith, certainly any kind that I can understand. Toller's combination of tortured introspection with a fearful inability to be fully honest with himself, even in his private journal or in prayer, rings very true. So does his rapidly compounding despair upon perceiving the ubiquity of corruption and spiritual decay in the institutions that he and his flock put their trust in. (I did wonder, when I first saw the film, why his downward slide seems so fast and so sudden. I think the answer is that it's not sudden at all: what we see is the release of psychical or spiritual pressure that's probably been building up for many years. Whether intentionally or not, whether culpably or not, Toller has been averting his eyes from certain truths about himself and his world - as we all do in some ways - and the crisis comes when this becomes impossible.) Another thing I appreciated, which helps keep the scenario from descending into caricature, was the dignity afforded to the megachurch pastor, who gives counsel that Toller is unable to take.
therewillbeblus wrote:I love the idea that Schrader views all the endings as "happy" because subjectively to Toller, they all would be, just as his faith is subjective and unmeasurable by us. Our belief that we need that 'truth' is as rigid as an audience judgment of his faith as 'true' or not, as if that operates on a binary plane. The ambiguity of the ending clears aside the waves for God and only God to judge this man, but the visualization of what we do get to see indicates that He (or however we define a higher power, that could easily be an energy of love, clearing conscience in Toller’s mind, body, and soul) seems to be granting some serenity, and that means everything, while the objective concreteness or our evaluations of his faith mean nothing.
I don't know about this, though. It seems to me that to take refuge in the subjectivity of a resolved state of mind is to deny the legitimacy of the quest that brought us to that state in the first place. Faith, and I would say Toller's faith specifically, is a search for truth, not for a private state of serenity that's untouchable and unreachable from outside. The latter, in fact, is a snare and a deception, and it was turning away from this deception that started us on the journey. Returning to that same place in happy unaccountability to anything real looks to me like an expression of vacuous futility.

Mind you, I fully agree we can't judge Toller or the validity of whatever redemption he finds. My concern is that when I put myself in Toller's place, I have to think it makes all the difference in the world whether the person whose love I rely on has her own independent existence, not fully known and not controlled by me, or whether she's my own subconscious creation. Even more so for God: to search for God is to search for a being infinitely greater than oneself, not to be satisfied with anything less. I'm not sure that all of this means we actually differ on how to interpret this film. In fact, we had a similar difference of opinion about the ending of Inception, if I recall, so this may indicate a deeper disagreement, unless I'm misunderstanding you somehow.

(BTW, I know this response is late. I've been catching up on some unread threads after not checking the board regularly for a while.)

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therewillbeblus
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#110 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Dec 08, 2020 7:53 pm

In Toller's first meeting with the husband he says, "Courage is the solution to despair, reason provides no answers. I can't know what the future will bring; we have to choose despite uncertainty. Wisdom is holding two contradictory truths in our mind, simultaneously, Hope and despair. A life without despair is a life without hope. Holding these two ideas in our head is life itself." I think Toller's journey throughout this film is the struggle between the part of him that needs truth (becoming angry at environmental concerns, the difficulty processing his role in his son's death, etc.) and the part that 'gives it up to God' and trusts that searching for Truth heavily with "reason" clouds the mind while "courage" will open it. I agree with you that, if I were in Toller's place and I was considering whether or not the other person was real, it would matter, because my attention would be the former rigid focus on objective truth. My point is that, in the end, Toller is willing to 'give it up to God' and that he fully believes without doubt that her existence is real, or to say it better, whatever he's thinking of, or feeling, in that moment is definitely not a concern with who's controlling what or any objective reality. What we think doesn't matter, only that he does. You or me or anyone else putting themselves in his place is futile if we expect him to move to our concerns; in fact, that supposition is not making an effort to put oneself in his place at all- it's putting him in ours! In that final moment, "reality" as we know it is relative, but Toller 100% feels that moment is real, and so it has the same outcome of meaning either way for his life as he knows it. And yeah, I feel the exact same way about Inception, but I don't remember our specific conversation about it.

I struggle with the argument you're putting forth about either film though because it attempts to contradict the boundless enigmas of faith with the tangible ideas of reason, and it uses the viewer's objectivity as a blueprint for what the character is subjectively feeling. If right now, as I hit send, the woman I love walked in my door and I saw her and I felt compelled to leave all inhibitions behind and fully embrace her in a spiritual experience, I wouldn't care about your concern over the science behind her independent existence, because it wouldn't affect how I experienced that moment. Or even if I would, the point is that he didn't stop that rush of emotion and spirituality to consider the logistics of it all. We can ponder all day about if it was possible for her to get through the door or not, but he didn't stop to ponder about it- that is what matters. There's a serenity in accepting our limitations at accessing truth with reason, and turning toward a spiritual truth of sixth-sense 'feeling', even if it excludes others in its subjective validity. I believe, in both films, it wasn't a conscious choice for either character to hold reason in one hand and purposefully discard it in favor of faith, which seems to be what you're saying- but it was a spiritual moment of unconscious trust in that energy, and something we cannot fathom with the tools we have. So that is a leap of faith we as an audience need to then take, or not, but that choice will affect our responses to this scene and directly mimic Toller's own struggle- and I personally believe that choosing our reason is an anti-spiritual position that resists surrender and goes against the intent of both films, which are implicitly asking us to surrender with the characters.

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