Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The sacred and profane

I recently saw a film in which I felt I saw a great example of God's love and his power to forgive us. The film:

The Bad Lieutenant

Now, I will say that I recommend this film to almost nobody who is reading this. If you really wanna watch it and don't want me spoiling anything for you then stop reading. If you don't plan on seeing it here goes. The Bad Lieutenant is rated NC-17, and it earns its rating. I can not even say I enjoyed much of the film, though once it was over I was glad I finished.

The title character is played by Harvey Keitel. We actually never learn his name. He is simply a VERY corrupt cop. He gambles, has a cocaine and heroin addiction, is an absentee husband and father, goes to prostitutes but is so far messed up doesn't get any pleasure out of that or anything else. Throughout the film we see examples of just how BAD this cop is. At times it is hard to sit through. In the films most disturbing scene he stops two young women and finds out they are driving their father's car without his permission. He uses this knowledge to abuse them in a way I will not elaborate on. The character seems to have absolutely no redeeming value.

Then a case happens that gets his attention. A nun is brutally raped in a church by two men.

Even then he seems to blow it off as just another case. But what fascinates him is that the nun knows who her attackers were. And yet she will not give the police their names. The reason: She has already forgiven them.

This dumbfounds the lieutenant. We find him alone in the church (which the attackers also desecrated) trying to sleep among the chaos.

Things keep spiraling down as he knows other bad men will soon be collecting on a gambling debt he can not repay.

Finally at the end of the film, he goes back to the church and sees the nun. He kneels down next to her and starts talking.

He asks her how she could possibly forgive her attackers. "They put their cigarettes out on you for God's sake."

"Your forgiveness will leave blood in its wake. What if these guys do something like this again? To other women, other virgins? Old women who die from the shock? Do you have the right to forgive them? Can you bear the burden, sister?"

The nun responds: "Talk to Jesus. Pray. You believe in God don't you? Jesus Christ died for your sins."

After the nun walks away the lieutenant begins crying out. Not simple tears, but groans of anguish.

After falling to his knees he looks and sees (through a drug induced hallucination) the image of Christ looking at him from down the church aisle.

He starts by cursing at Christ. "You just stand there and you want me to do every ____ing thing. Where were you! Where the ___ were you. Where were you! Where the hell were you!"

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. I did so many bad things. I'm sorry. I tried to do...I tried to do the right thing but I'm weak. I'm too ___ing weak."

"I need you to help me."

He begins walking towards Christ.

"Help me. I need you to help me."

"Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me please. Forgive me, father."

He then continues to crawl towards Christ. Stopping before his nail pierced feet, he kisses the right foot of Jesus.

He then looks up and sees the face of a black woman, holding a chalice.

Soon after this, the Lieutenant receives a tip and knows who the two boys are that attacked the nun. He finds them, and takes them into his car at gunpoint.

"You raped a holy thing. You destroyed that young girl. And she forgives you. Ya hear that? She forgives you."

He then gives them money and forces them onto a bus out of town. Showing them his own forgiveness, and making what they do with it, up to them.

In the last scene of the movie, the Lieutenant is killed by those he could not repay his gambling debts too. In the background of the scene is a large poster that reads "It All Happens Here" and the Holy number (at least to some) 777.

Can a film teach a lesson of forgiveness and be profane in its way of doing so?

I wanted to play this part because I have a deep desire to know God. Knowing God isn't just a matter of going to confession and praying. We also know God by confronting evil, and this character gave me the opportunity to descend into the most painful part of myself and learn about the dark places."

Harvey Keitel
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