Friday, June 22, 2012

For Greater Glory

As I have mentioned before, I have been very excited about this movie, ever since I first hear rumours of it being made. However, I live in a place that rarely shows limited release, independent films, so I did not figure on getting to see it until it came out on DVD. It must be doing much better than expected, because it appeared in the local theater late last week, and my sisters and I, astonished, but terribly glad, took ourselves off to see it on Monday.

I must say I was very impressed by it. I am not going to do a review on it, since there are a great number of them about at present, written either by folk - mostly professional critics - who hated it; or by those who were deeply moved and inspired by it. I do not think I have read a single indifferent review. No, I intend to highlight a few of the things that particularly impressed my with For Greater Glory, which I do not recall seeing mentioned anywhere else.

 - Obviously, this is a very Catholic movie, which is unusual enough in our day and age, and it is Catholic on various levels. There is the usual Catholic imagery, which is reasonably common in both movies and TV programs. Most of the main characters are Catholics, and their faith is portrayed in a straightforward and respectful manner. This is not so common, particularly in movies that are considered "intelligent". Still, it is not so uncommon as to deserve more than a mention of it. What is particularly striking about For Greater Glory, at least to my way of thinking, is that it portrays commitment to the Faith, not as a cause, or an idea, but as a fundamental way of life. These people are not just practicing Catholics. They are Catholics. It defines them. Furthermore, all the main characters who are not Catholics, are gradually drawn towards the Faith, so that in the end, regardless of what sort of lives they might have lived before, or what sort of doubts they have been struggling with, at the vital moment that matters, they come down firmly on the side of Cristo Rey. And this is done, for the most part, without much discussion. One merely sees the Cristeros attending Mass, receiving the Sacraments, and fighting to the death for what they believe. It is attractive, and inspiring.

 - I like the fact that the movie portrays various aspects of the Catholic resistance movements. At the beginning of the movie, after President Calles has vowed to enforce the viciously anti-Catholic laws in the 1917 Mexican Constitution, we see numerous scenes of peaceful resistance. There marches, petitions and boycotts. There is honest discussion amongst the various characters, about the wisdom of taking up arms against the government. At one point, a character says, in support of the boycotts, that we can do without. It will be our Lent. I liked that. The film ultimately follows the fighters more closely than the supporting non-combatant, and the armed conflict is portrayed as a laudable thing. However, those who chose to resist, but not to fight in the battlefields, are portrayed as brave and honourable as well. I thought that was a nice balance.

 - I like the way they handled Fr. Vega's character. Priests are not supposed to fight. They may be attached to armies, so that they may minister to the spiritual needs of the fighting men, but they are not to take up arms themselves. Fr. Vega does, and is an officer as well. It would have been easy to slip here, and portray him as a hero for making the choice to fight, especially since there is a tendency these days to emphasise action. The mission of the Catholic Church is primarily the salvation of souls, and therefore must be concerned more with the spiritual side of things. As it is, Fr. Vega is portrayed sympathetically. He is conflicted, and struggles with his decision, but he is, as he says himself, a priest first. Furthermore, he is the only priest in the film who takes up arms. The others continue to serve their people as well as they can under the circumstances, and a couple of them suffer martyrdom for their brave dedication.

 - This movie has an R rating that I do not think it deserves... and this is from a girl who watches most of the grittier scenes in action/adventure movies out of my bad eye only, that way I can see what is going on, but miss the gory details. For Greater Glory is violent, there is not doubt about that, it can hardly help it with the subject matter. There are scenes of war, recrimination and martyrdom - including the martyrdom of a young boy. People are beaten, shot, tortured and hanged, and the movie certainly does not pull any punches. Neither does it, however, hit you senseless with it. There is a good deal of restraint and very little gore, even in the most brutal scenes. The point of this film is not, after all, to horrify the audience with the cruelty of the Mexican government, but to edify them with the courage of the Cristeros: men, women, and even children, who were braved all these things in order to stand up for the Truth. And in that, it eminently succeeds. It is an unabashedly heroic movie; a movie that comes down squarely on the side of courage, honour and the Catholic faith. It glorifies virtue even to the point of martyrdom, and it challenges the viewer. You say you believe this - how far are you willing to go to stand up for it?


Treskie said...

I loved it! I cried, but I loved it!

Good points, Mahri.

Amy said...

Awesome review, Mahri!

Anonymous said...

wow, I just read this... a day late and a dollar short, but Gee Mahri, now I want to see For Greater Glory all over again.... I still haven't watched it. Can't wait!