5 Movies Beloved by Bishop Barron

Bishop-Robert-BarronBy email, I asked for a list of five favorite movies from Los Angeles’ Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron, one of the Church’s premiere media evangelists. Here they are:

A Man For All Seasons

The Mission

The Song of Bernadette

It’s a Wonderful Life

Cinderella (Kenneth Branagh’s version)

Why? Let Bishop Barron tell you in his own words.

“A Man for All Seasons”: Released in 1966, it’s a magnificent adaptation of Robert Bolt’s play (he also wrote the screenplay) about Saint Thomas More (Paul Scofield), martyred for the Faith by King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw). Apparently, it’s top on Bishop Barron’s list for a reason:

Here’s a peek (and a link to rent the whole movie, starting at $2.99):

“The Mission”: Again written by Robert Bolt (who also wrote “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia”), and directed by Roland Joffe, this 1986 film stars Jeremy Irons as a Spanish Jesuit missionary in South America in the 1750s. Bishop Barron wrote about it in a May 10 article he did on Jesuit priest and peace activist Father Daniel Berrigan for The National Catholic Register:

I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Fr. Berrigan when he came to Mundelein Seminary in the mid 1990’s. By that time, he was in his seventies, and much of the fire-brand quality that so marked him in his prime had evanesced. I found him very quiet and ruminative. I asked him about the film The Mission, in which he played a small role. As you might recall, that great movie ends ambiguously. When the peaceful and religiously vibrant mission was being forcibly closed by corrupt powers, Robert De Niro’s character, a Jesuit priest, resisted violently, while Jeremy Irons’s character, also a Jesuit priest, resisted non-violently, holding up the Blessed Sacrament in the midst of his people. Since both men were killed, and the mission destroyed, the film doesn’t really decide which of them was “correct;” rather it shows two paths, and invites the viewers to make up their own minds. Well, I asked Daniel Berrigan what he thought of the ending, and he said, with a bit of a weary smile, that it reflected the director’s views not his own. I took him to mean that he didn’t fully approve of the unresolved tension between the two paths of resistance to evil, preferring a clear endorsement of non-violence.

“The Song of Bernadette”: Jennifer Jones plays the eventual Saint Bernadette Soubirous, born in Lourdes, France, in 1844, whose visions of a beautiful lady (Linda Darnell) holding a pearl rosary eventually lead to the discovery of the healing waters of Lourdes. In a piece about St. Bernadette for the Website of his media ministry, Word on Fire, Bishop Barron wrote:

Bernadette is a perennial favorite when young ladies chose their confirmation names. And girls certainly do love watching the film version of “The Song of Bernadette”. (Winner of the very first Golden Globe award for best motion picture, by the way!) I wouldn’t say that watching this movie was the thing that led to my conversion…but it sure didn’t hurt!

Our Lady did not appear at Lourdes just to touch the hearts of tween girls throughout the ages. There is, indeed, much that speaks to the heart of the young girl. But anyone, of any age or gender can find in the story of St. Bernadette a story that will resonate truth within their hearts.

The appearance of Our Lady at Lourdes was not just for Bernadette – it could be heard by all; a sign for all pointing to Our Lady’s son, Jesus Christ.

And here’s the whole movie, courtesy of YouTube:

“It’s a Wonderful Life”: Frank Capra’s 1946 film, which begins and ends on a snowy night at Christmastime, is one of the holiday season’s most-watched films (largely due to it going into the public domain for many years and being run endlessly in syndication), but it’s also one of the darker Christmas tales.

Jimmy Stewart stars as small-town savings-and-loan operator George Bailey, who, despite a loving wife and children, is frustrated at not achieving his globetrotting dreams. A reversal engineered by a rival puts him on the brink of suicide, and only an angelic intervention can save him.

I can’t find where Bishop Barron has written about “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but here’s an excerpt from a piece called “The Catholic Vision of Frank Capra”:

It’s a Wonderful Life is a work of summation, whose undercurrent of angst can be interpreted in different ways. At the heart of the film lies the conflict between the desires of the heart and the needs of the common good. The hero of the story, George Bailey (played by Stewart), struggles throughout the picture with this irreconcilable conflict within himself. Even though his nemesis, Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), typifies the classic Capra villain, he’s really more an external manifestation of one side of George’s divided spirit than an autonomous character.

Surprisingly enough, this embrace of life was a box-office disappointment. Capra called It’s a Wonderful Life the greatest film he had ever made: “A film to tell the wary, the disheartened, and the disillusioned; the wino, the junkie, the prostitute; those behind prison walls and those behind Iron Curtains, that no man is a failure! To show those born slow of foot or slow of mind, those oldest sisters condemned to spinsterhood, and those oldest sons condemned to unschooled toil, that each man’s life touches so many other lives. And that if he isn’t around it would leave an awful hole.

Here’s George Bailey and his eventual bride, decked out in Marian blue:

“Cinderella”: Bishop Barron is referring to Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 version of the classic fairytale, starring Lily James, Cate Blanchette and Richard Madden, which he feels exposes the Christian roots of the character.

In an interview with the U.K. Telegraph, the Irish Branagh said:

The tale has been in various cultures for the last two and a half  thousand years and is very flexible and has had very many adaptations,” he agrees. “It was important for us to reinvent Cinderella and make her a more pro-active, more 21st Century character.

Bishop Barron also wrote about this film in a piece called “Kenneth Branagh’s Very Christian Cinderella”(after all, she’s saved by her fairy GODmother, and she’s also wearing Marian blue):

Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella” is the most surprising Hollywood movie of the year so far. I say this because the director manages to tells the familiar fairy tale without irony, hyper-feminist sub-plots, Marxist insinuations, deconstructionist cynicism, or arch condescension. In so doing, he actually allows the spiritual, indeed specifically Christian, character of the tale to emerge. I realize that it probably strikes a contemporary audience as odd that Cinderella might be a Christian allegory, but keep in mind that most of the fairy stories and children’s tales compiled by the Brothers Grimm and later adapted by Walt Disney found their roots in the decidedly Christian culture of late medieval and early modern Europe.

And now you have your very own Bishop Barron Film Fest!

Image: CNS Photo/Jeffrey Bruno

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  • alexsupertramp

    I like movies that have more subtle Catholic themes like Raging Bull and Once Upon a Time in the West