He is absolutely disconsolate because of climate change and the irreversible anthropogenic devastation awaiting their unborn daughter. The power of “First Reformed” is that it’s a fever dream in which Toller passes through the looking glass of apocalyptic progressive belief. Remorse, nostalgia and romance are also key components to the dynamics in this film, there is no tacked on love story but merely masterfully integrated themes. Hawke’s character looks like he is on the verge of tears in almost every frame and that is exactly what you would expect given everything else happening in the film. It was a knockout punch, and really the only standout premiere from the festival, so when I had the chance to attend a press screening this week at the Embarcadero, I couldn’t resist. For once, the discussion about climate change isn’t painted as a battle between religion and science, but rather a corporate interest issue, so both atheist and religious viewers alike can take an important message from this film without feeling alienated by the subject matter. Slowly becoming more and more ostracised by his fellow colleagues he becomes seemingly more frustrated that the people around him have such a passive reaction to the impending doom facing the planet. Writer-director Paul Schrader’s past screenplays include Scorsese classics Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and First Reformed manages to live up to that high standard. Whilst directors such as Scorsese, Kubrick and Carpenter receive critical acclaim and world wide recognition; Schrader often falls to the sideline, lurking in the shadows. So be sure to bask in the glory of this masterful zeitgeist of a film before we’re all gone. Are they potentially concerning? First Reformed isn't the subtlest of theological provocations. The preliminary diagnosis brings out anger and denial (a nod to the deniers of climate change). But Reverend Toller is troubled as well. This movie does an amazing job of emphasizing the urgency of the issue, while also forcing us to look within ourselves. Much like an earlier Schrader film, Light Sleeper with Willem Dafoe, the journal helps us keep track of the character’s mental journey as they progress through the film. He dons his inherited suicide vest, asserting his actions as God’s will. In fact, it was the second time I saw Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, the first being about eight months ago at the Telluride Film Festival. “First Reformed,” in other words, is hardly the subtlest of theological provocations, which may be why it feels like the right one for these none-too-subtle times. Although climate change is a growing issue that has practically engulfed political discourse in recent years, it’s no surprise that Hollywood has made very few films about it. Newsflash – I just saw one of the best movies of the year, and believe me, I would know (see: “respected film critic”). Required fields are marked *. Rarely do I see a movie so in your face about its parallelism and messages that manages them with a considerable degree of subtly. Sorrow from the death of his son, who died in the Iraq war, follows Toller like a ghost. This is a very smartly written film that manages to juggle a number of huge themes - environmentalism, climate change, mental illness, addiction, existentialism, conspiracy, martyrdom, religion and its intersection with capitalism - with finesse and confidence… Michael’s funeral, per his will, is performed on a polluted shoreline and publicized by his environmental activist cohort. During a meeting with an energy company CEO who is also a financial backer of the church, Toller asks, “Who profits when we soil our home?” meaning the large corporations that pollute our Earth. Here’s a clip from the press kit that we can share with you , T. Anthony Schear doesn’t accept the status quo. Whilst there are definite differences with both films, the weaving of existentialism and religion are common throughout both and they do it without flaw. Different from Winter Light, Schrader points the focus of First Reformed heavily towards the imminent threat of climate change and ecological collapse. Religion and the church’s reaction to the climate crisis takes up a large part of the second half of First Reformed. The careful choreography of a doorway – the door revealing and then slowly concealing the waning Michael. Climate change is not the only factor in the existentialism that this film is seeped in. Eventually he devolves from whisky in his cereal milk to Pepto-Bismol in his whisky, a harrowing image reminiscent of a tumor or an oil spill. It speaks to the contagious nature of terrorism while spinning the normalized Muslim terrorist narrative back at white Christian men. Different from Winter Light, Schrader points the focus of First Reformed heavily towards the imminent threat of climate change and ecological collapse. Every shot is incredibly well thought out, the close ups show immense detail in each character’s emotions. But it’s a necessary one. With all the complexities you can expect from one of cinema’s most gifted minds, First Reformed will serve as a prominent artifact of our global existential crisis in the decades to come (if we survive that long). Continuing he goes on to mention the destructive nature of capitalism and how the church has stood by and let it go by without any attempts to deter it, he says “We know who spoke for big business, but who spoke for god?”. Without a doubt, this is one of the most important films of the last decade alongside being my personal favourite. The small church choir, singing Neil Young’s Who’s Gunna Stand Up? Rattling off a list of macroscopic environmental issues, the thought of bringing a child into the world brings him to tears. At the beginning of the film, the question “will God ever forgive us for what we’re doing to his creation?” is asked, and it drives the movie’s entire trajectory. WASHINGTON — One of the themes in Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” is how humans grapple with despair at a time when the climate crisis leaves little room for hope. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! His unraveling is intentionally juxtaposed against the Earth’s worsening climate. Your email address will not be published. At the beginning of the film, the question “will God ever forgive us for what we’re doing to his creation?” is asked, and it drives the movie’s entire trajectory. The planet’s organs are no better. Hopelessness, loneliness and nihilism are all barraged at the viewer with full force and Ethan Hawke’s character looks on the verge of collapse in almost every shot. Later in the film whilst talking to his senior, he claims that the US senate still denies climate change, which in the age of Trump rings ever true. Mainstream is the student newspaper of Paint Branch High School. I’m no stranger to big claims, but this must be one of the most sophisticated climate change films of all time. The first time I was delighted by “the rare depiction of white man as radicalized terrorist, especially one from the army and the church”. From the dialogue to the perfectly executed themes this is everything I personally want in a film. It’s set in Modern-day Upstate New York and follows Reverend Toller, a pastor suffering from both physical and psychological problems, stemming from his disregard for his own well-being and deep guilt from his past. Alongside writing such much loved masterpieces like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull; he has also directed some absolutely exceptional movies as well. Clearly loneliness plays a large part in his life, his house is devoid of much furniture and his alcoholism runs rampant throughout the film. Another thing I really liked was the lack of music, it has a very minimal soundtrack. First Reformed is a thought-provoking film that examines who really is to blame for climate change, and who’s really affected by it. Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) is an army-man-turned-reverend-turned-eco-terrorist who leads a minuscule congregation at a historical church (a stop on the underground railroad) mostly visited by tourists. The movie doesn’t explicitly answer that, we have to figure that out. The organ, literally and figuratively, serves as the thematic through-line: not only is the church’s organ malfunctioning just weeks before the 250th anniversary, but Toller’s internal organs are enflamed with cancer. Climate Change Fiction Is Rethinking The Ecoterrorist We don't need to be on board with the extreme actions of characters in First Reformed and The Overstory to feel some empathy for the desperation that drives them.