A Question Of Faith

on May 04, 2001 by Paul Clinton
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Glib religiosity sinks "A Question of Faith," a movie purporting to explore one monk's spiritual, as well as physical, transformation. Writer/director Tim Disney, a former investment banker, pays lip service to his idea that those dedicated to pious, austere livelihoods are capable of selfishness and brutality. But he doesn't ignite his material--as Martin Scorsese did with "The Last Temptation of Christ"--with the fire of conviction. Disney seems less interested in an inquiry into the nature of faith than he is in the process of winemaking or the (homosexual?) bond between men living in isolation.

Martha Hackett is Anselm, a shy loner who, while wandering in an olive grove, sees a vision of Gabriel. The angel also reaches out to touch the stunned Anselm, and the experience changes the priest in more ways that one, alienating him from some of the other members of the order. Most notably, Head Abbot Frederick (Bernard Hill, sharp as a Catholic fascist with an Iron Cross pendant) punishes Anselm for his "lies," forcing the devotee into bread-and-water captivity. Brother Francis (Paul Guilfoyle) finds himself caught in the middle and, in a moment of weakness, can't act to save Anselm. It is Francis' confession that bookmarks a story told entirely in flashback.

Hackett ("Never Been Kissed") doesn't seem comfortable in this role. The androgynous actress has the right "look" for the part, but she never lets us know what's happening behind that curiously oddball face.

She doesn't get much help from Disney. Not only is his script loaded with pat Catholicism, the first-timer's direction leaves a lot of room for improvement. Disney is unafraid to splice jarring digital flashbacks and overly familiar stock footage into a movie with a visual style that is choppy as best.

Disney gets a few of his messages across, but he'll probably be preaching to empty theatre seats. Starring Martha Hackett, Bernard Hill and Paul Guilfoyle. Directed and written by Tim Disney. Produced by William Haney. A First Look release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 88 min.

Tags: Martha Hackett, Bernard Hill, Paul Guilfoyle, Directed and written by Tim Disney, Produced by William Haney, A First Look release, Drama, Catholicism, flashbacks, choppy, weakness, pious, physical
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