Monday, May 16, 2016

Last Days in the Desert [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1 star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (J. Chang) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

Last Days in the Desert [2016] (written and directed by Rodrigo García) is an apocryphal story invented by the writer / director and added to the end of Jesus' 40 Days of Prayer, Fasting and Temptation in the Desert [cf Mk 1:12-13, Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13].

In this story, near the end of 40 Days in the Desert, Jesus (Yeshua) (played by Ewan McGregor) encounters a small Family _living_ out there in the Desert (the father, mother and teenage son played by Ciarán Hinds, Ayelet Zurer and Tye Sheridan) and is TAUNTED by the Devil (voiced / played by Ewan McGregor again) to "resolve their problems."  And there are plenty: The Father seems to have been driven to the Desert by his own sense of Failure in life.  The Mother is ill and wasting-away / dying of some unspecified (though probably cancer-like) illness.  Finally, the Son is itching to just get away and strike-out on his own.  

So the challenge that writer / director seems to be giving his Jesus (and to believing Viewers) is to "put aside the Bible" and make him (Jesus) "relevant" to this family with "plenty of its own problems."

And I suppose, in our "focused in on ourselves" quite narcissistic time, that's a quite realistic "challenge" and one that Jesus (be he the script-writer's Jesus or any other one, including the actual One) would certainly fail.

That's because if a person is primarily focused on him/herself, _by definition_ NO ONE (not even Jesus / God) will have much "relevance" to that person. 

The Father seems to be focused on his Failures / Impotence, the Son is focused on whatever big dreams he has as soon as he "blows this Desert" and the Mom is focused on the reality that she's not going to be part of the Living much longer.

So  the writer / director's "Jesus" HAS TO FAIL ...

But do any of the three others "succeed"?  Of course not.

The mother's facing imminent extinction, the father sees that he's not going to leave a mark, and the son, okay, "for a while" can _pretend_ that HE's gonna "make a difference" ... but in 10-20-30-40-50 years, he's gonna be where his father is now ...

EVEN THE BUDDHISTS see this: NOTHING IN THIS WORLD is Eternal.  EVERYTHING IS CHANGING (and if one is honest is directed toward extinction / annihilation).

So then, where does one put one's Hopes / Treasure?


(1) Just make yourself some food ... but food / material well-being are not enough in so short a life.
(2) Make yourself "important" ... but what good is ruling "even the whole world" if you're gonna die and _quickly_ become _unimportant_ then ANYWAY.
(3) Give up then on life and just be a dare-devil ... you'll just die sooner.

I confess that I _don't_ much like stories that seek to _add_ (invent entirely new) episodes to Jesus' life or to the Bible.  I gave a similarly poor rating to a recent film Young Messiah [2016] that focused on "Jesus' hidden years" (as a youth). 

The _actual_ Scriptures offer SO MUCH MORE to _chew / reflect_ on ... and this is why I gave The Bible (History Channel Series) [2013] FOUR STARS while I gave the current film / Young Messiah [2016] one each.

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