Stations of the Cross, winner of the Silver Bear for Best Script at this year's Berlin Film Festival, tackles aspects of religious fundamentalism within the social and family structure and its practical application to contemporary society whilst addressing some contradictory positions regarding God. The film's central character is Maria, a teenage girl on the cusp of making her Confirmation in a Parish which has reverted to a stricter, more traditional view of Catholicism; what I call "Wishy washy Catholicism" which is essentially the adaptation of Christian thought to the modern world -including relaxed attitudes to homosexuality, sex before marriage and even abortion. Most strikingly the Parish endorses one of the most draconian and oppressive Christian traditions; the absurd and rather disgusting notion that pleasure is somehow a spiritual defect. With this it side steps the modern friendly message of Christianity that we are all happy children of God, who are loved and love each other, with a dictatorial framework of governance that posits that we are the property of God, subject to his will and constraints and therefore we must sacrifice our own individual identity and happiness in order to fulfill God's will.
Indeed throughout the film individual autonomy is pitted against the will of God. The latter is situated within a dogmatic cannon accepted on blind faith where the word of God is the word of God and sin is sin - there is no grey area. This has severe practical consequences for any thinking human being but perhaps more so in the modern world and particularly during adolescent development. Maria is attracted to a young suitor and like all of us in this situation she wants to impress. Unfortunately these self-recognised feelings of potential happiness and satisfaction collide dramatically with her fundamentalist teachings, and her upbringing, and thus she finds herself in the confession box declaring her sin and conceited arrogance because she was attracted to another human, cared about her appearance and wanted to make a mark. Yet the pitting of individual autonomy and contentment against dogmatic fundamentals and immovable scriptural rules does not stop there. All forms of modern music are satanic (I never knew the devil had a favourite track list), her social contact is scrutinised by her family against the backdrop of fundamentalist views which further serves to highlight the paralyses inflicted on personal, social and individual development as a consequence of dogmatic religious fundamentalism dispatched on a mere whim, treated as an undeniable truth and reality but presented without rational justification.
The film's tone is sombre but the atmosphere is enticing. You are placed directly into every scene riddled with borderline religious insanity and it consequences on the young protagonist in a stark and in your face manner. The film, which has been largely praised by critics and the art house community, briefly depicts some contradictions found in the philosophical framework of hard-core Catholicism at the beginning of the film. For instance the metaphysical existence of a supreme omnipotent being that somehow needs his flock on earth to do his willing . The children during as Parish lesson, in preparation for their Confirmation, are told that evil and sinful pleasure is everywhere and as Catholics they have been chosen as God's warriors on earth. For me this strikes at the heart of one the most significant contradictions regarding religious thought which is the idea of a supreme being whose will is untouchable and who has dominion over all of us but that we can somehow decide what action to take. This is usually answered in the form of free will but free will contradicts the almighty power of God.
Although the film could do more to address the philosophical issues behind religious thought systems in general, along with the psychological motivations behind its belief, it does centre its story on one of the most important questions facing religious fundamentalism and religion in general which is the role of, and the impact on, children. This is because as adults we can fully comprehend and respect the views of others but in adolescence it is difficult to distinguish what is voluntary and what is being pushed upon the child; and ultimately what the consequences will be on the child's future adulthood. The film will have a special screening on Monday the 17th of November at 6.30pm at Clapham Picturehouse with a special panel discussion on religious fundamentalism which will include myself, Dr Catherine Wheatley of Kings College London and Sight and Sound; and Dr. Lisa Oakley, an expert on Spiritual Abuse Psychology. Stations of the Cross is in cinemas from the 28th of November.
the Mono Metaphysics Argument - Why the existence of God is logically impossible: http://thebiggestquestions.org/the-mono-metaphysics-argument/