Simple gifts

Shakers dance

Who will bow and bend like a willow
Who will turn and twist and reel
In the gale of simple freedom …

– Shaker spiritual

John Ciardi said that the poet is known by the valor of his refusals. So too the saint. But the austerity of self-limitation is not what we might have expected from the Wooster Group, the edgy New York City troupe long known for its Dionysian blends of experimental theater and multimedia technologies. Their latest production, however, not only reincarnates the music of the Shakers, it does so with a minimalist restraint worthy of that nearly extinct American sect.

Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation presents all 20 songs from side A of a 1976 LP recorded at the dwindling Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. After the liner notes for each song are read aloud, four women in plain 19th century dress sing along with the actual spinning record as it is transmitted to them through wireless receivers. The voice of Suzzy Roche is especially haunting, lean and lonesome and saturated with pastness like a faded tintype. While we listen to these contemporary reproductions of long departed voices, we sometimes hear the faint traces of the original recorded sound leaking into the room from the women’s earpieces. As the New York Times has written: “The aural effect is subtle and eerie, suggesting a kind of phantasmal possession of the present by the past or, if you prefer, the eternal.”[i]

Sitting quietly, passive and still, replicating out loud what they are hearing in their ear, the singers seem to be channeling something not of their own making, a transcendent voice entering the present world by first passing through their own souls and bodies. It feels like the spiritual ventriloquism of biblical prophecy. What shall I sing? Sing this. How fitting for a repertoire which the Shakers often attributed to the gifts of unseen spirits or divine inspiration.

The contrast of the singers’ personal inexpressiveness with such passionate, ecstatic and sometimes eschatological song texts (“with leaping and with dancing / we’ll hail the jubilee”) only strengthens the sense of otherness. What they sing does not come from them, but through them. It is not a spontaneous construct whipped up by emotional display. Such unassertive transparency achieves a strange oracular force. We hear a message from beyond.

Even when the singers rise from their chairs to approximate the original Shaker dances, it is not an exaltation of the self, but a yielding to the higher rhythms of divine choreography. As they reel, turn and twist to “shake out all the starch and stiffening,” they do not express. They surrender.

When I saw this compelling performance the other night in Los Angeles’ Redcat Theater, I was transported – whether to the past, or to the eternal, who can say? But I came away touched by a larger world than my ordinary domain. Voices distant in time had spoken to me. And is this not analogous to the eucharistic liturgy? We listen to ancient voices as if they were here and now, and speak their words from our own lips. Transparent presiders at the altar reproduce actions first performed in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. If we manage to keep our ego out of the way in the liturgy, the eternal Word, like that 1976 Shaker recording, may be heard and received in the fresh particularity of the now.

Some of the Wooster Group might take issue with my theological interpretation. Frances McDormand, the ensemble’s best-known actress, has resisted the religious dimensions of the Shaker tradition, preferring to stress the communal qualities of their musical environment. “It’s not religiously based,” she said in an interview. “It’s more poetic. There are parables to it, but it’s not about Jesus so it’s a little bit easier to take.”[ii]

Such indifference to Christian theology and practice is the common currency of secular modernity, the default position posing a perpetual challenge to those who would speak of faith. Many people think of Jesus and Christianity as something over and done, at least for them.

And yet, here is a cutting edge theater troupe performing religious songs without irony or ridicule, in a creative simulacrum of the otherness of the music’s reputedly transcendent source. While I won’t presume to baptize the Wooster Group, or attribute overt belief where it is explicitly denied, I still wonder whether there might yet be something larger at work in the world than any of us are able either to understand or admit. Whatever the Wooster Group actually thinks about what they are doing, and whatever ideas I might have about it, the “simple gifts” of love and delight go on being given and being received. Whether the mechanism of that exchange can be adequately described or named is perhaps the least important part of the whole thing. Experience trumps the language we put to it. In the end, you don’t need to possess the perfect map before you can dwell in “the valley of love and delight.” You’re already there. Its song is already whispering in your ear.

[i] Ben Brantley, The New York Times, May 29, 2014

[ii] James Kim interview with Frances McDormand, KPPC radio, Jan. 21, 2015


A musical tsunami

A musical tsunami. The heavy metal of the 19th century. That’s how some have tried to convey the volcanic eruption of sound known as shape note singing. It’s already loud as you walk from your car toward the meeting room where over a hundred singers are gathered for an all-day singing. When you open the door to come inside, it blasts and sears you like heat from a forge.

Shape note singing, like jazz, is a uniquely American form. It began in New England churches of the late 18th century, but soon proved too raucous and untamed for that staid ecclesiastical environment, and had to migrate to the free-form churches of the South. When more fashionably modern gospel music began to displace it in the early 20thth century, shape note’s habitat shrank to scattered pockets of entrenched tradition, until it was “rediscovered” in the mid-20th century folk music revival. While there are still southern singers whose shape note heritage goes back many generations, there are many more who have entered this musical fold on their own, not only in the United States and Canada, but in the UK, Germany and Poland as well. Shape note singing has a way of grabbing hold of you and never letting go.

People gather weekly or monthly to sing for a couple of hours in small groups all over the United States, but the annual regional conventions – Saturday and Sunday all-day singings of a hundred or more from many states, singing about 95 songs per day – are the molten core of the tradition. These marathons of massed voices take everything you’ve got. By late Sunday afternoon, your voice is gone but your heart is full.

The musical notation uses (usually four) different shapes for the notes – triangle, rectangle, diamond, and the familiar oval. Representing the solfège syllables (fa-sol-la-mi), they provide a guide to the intervals between the notes, making sight-reading easier for untrained singers. Since the shapes are sung once prior to the actual words, the first time through a tune makes a strange syllabic murmur, like an incantation in a forgotten tongue.

The singing style is raw, nasal, straight-tone (no vibrato), full-throttle all the way. “If you can hear the person next to you, you’re not singing loud enough,” they like to say. Each voice-part sits together on one side of the “hollow square,” facing inward toward the leader (anyone who wishes takes a turn in the center, picking the next song and beating time for all to follow). There are slow songs, fast songs, and fugueing tunes with staggered entrances. And whether you are racing through an exhilarating major key or dragging out a slow, mournful minor key song about death and dying, you feel great when you’re done. There’s always something deeper at work than either text or tune in the performance of this strange and wonderful music.

Singers consist of Christians and non-Christians, theological progressives and traditionalists, seekers and unbelievers. No one, including me, embraces all the lyrics, some of which come out of a 19th century Protestant mindset and language not in fashion today. But theology is never discussed at a singing, and no one suggests changing the lyrics. That would be poor manners toward those who created the tradition. Shape note singing is not about doctrine but about relationships – with those who have gone before us, with the music they have given us, and with each other.

So a shape note gathering is not a community of shared faith. There is no creed or sustained reflection on the meaning of what we sing together. But when singers are asked about their experience, they usually invoke words like power, spirit, joy, catharsis, community, love, even transformation. So while there is no theology, ecclesiology or missiology in shape note singings, they are, is some ways, not so unlike what we hope for from church. As the (not shape note) hymn says:

How often, making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound “Alleluia!”

In my own Episcopal tradition, congregational singing is often tepid, even anemic. There are any number of reasons for this. We are products of our American culture, where communal singing is a lost art. We still have some English church heritage in our blood, so expressiveness and emotion are often repressed in worship. We lead hymns with loud pipe organs that won’t let us hear our own voices. And our hymnal melodies are written in the soprano line, which means that men either don’t even try to sing those high notes or else pitch them an octave lower, making their voices inaudible (in shape note, the melody is in the tenor). My father, an Episcopal priest and an enthusiastic man, could not bear weak singing. He was never afraid to stop a hymn in the middle to exhort people to sing louder. He would have loved shape note singing!

How I wish our church liturgies could always embody the spirit, power and energy of a shape note convention. Every liturgist and church musician needs to go to an all-day singing and then think very hard about the contrasts of what they experience in the hollow square with whatever happens back in their own worship gatherings.

At last weekend’s All-California Shape Note Convention, I was the chaplain at the Saturday session, responsible for the prayers at the beginning and end of the day. This was my opening prayer:

Come, Holy Spirit, breath of life eternal,
and occupy this hollow square,
that in these precious hours together
we may be united in holy sound and tuneful praise,
our souls and bodies resounding
with all that is deep and rich within us.
Draw us together with the bonds of affection;
let no one be a stranger here.
And send us a blessing today,
lift up our voices today,
make us your Sacred Harp today.
We pray this in your holy Name. Amen.

My 10 favorite Jesus movie moments

My father, the Rev. James K. Friedrich, with Joanne Dru on the set of "Day of Triumph" (1954).

My father, the Rev. James K. Friedrich, with Joanne Dru on the set of “Day of Triumph” (1954).

In my last post, I listed my “ten best Jesus movies.” Here now are my ten favorite moments, scenes which not only succeed cinematically but also provide fresh and resonant images of the Christ who, as the Jesuit poet said, “plays in ten thousand places.” But my ultimate criterion is that each of these scenes, after countless viewings, never fails to engage and move me.

No single image can capture the mystery of the Word made flesh. No actor will make you think he has become the perfect movie Jesus. But whenever the gospel story is retold and re-experienced, we may yet see something we had previously missed. We may even partake of a new revelation that has been waiting all these years to be received.

1927: The little blind girl (The King of Kings)

Most of the Jesus films invent dialogue to fill the gaps, but the incidents involving Jesus remain mostly Scriptural. But this scene, performed with silent cinema’s eloquent language of faces and gestures, is entirely invented. And it’s marvelous. A boy just healed by Jesus wants to share his blessing with a blind girl. “Take my hand – let me lead thee to him.” He guides her to a window and gives her a boost. Inside, the mother of Jesus gently receives the girl, who feels Mary’s face with her hands. “Please, I have come to find Jesus.” In the original score, the string section plays “Fairest Lord Jesus” here, imploring every sentiment. Mary takes the girl to stand before her son, who has not yet appeared on screen. “Lord, I have never seen the flowers nor the light. Wilt thou open my eyes?” The pleadingly expressive girl (played unforgettably by Muriel McCormack) stands in for all of us who long to see the Light of the world. The air around her grows luminous, and then, through her own eyes, we see a blurry glow gradually become the loving face of Christ, whom we, like her, now see for the first time. It perhaps the grandest entrance in the genre, and the perfect metaphor for a medium trying to bring the reality of Christ to light.

1954: The Lost Sheep (Day of Triumph)

I admit special affection for this film because my father produced it and I got out of school for a week to play an extra (who ended up on the cutting room floor). And this sequence, employing the traditional (though unbiblical) conflation of Mary Magdalene with repentant female sinners, has moved me ever since I first saw it as a child. Magdalene, a wealthy courtesan (played by the beautiful Joanne Dru), happens to hear Jesus teaching in Jerusalem. When he tells the parable of the Lost Sheep, he looks pointedly at her. Back in her house, she asks her servant – an early follower – what she knows about Jesus, masking her spiritual longing as idle curiosity. As the conversation unfolds, something in Magdalene breaks, and we cut to a Pharisee’s house, where Jesus has been invited to dine. A repentant Magdalene, now in humble attire, arrives to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears. The Pharisee is shocked, the disciples bewildered. When Jesus speaks the words of forgiveness over her, we get the first close-up of Mary Magdalene’s tear-stained face. Every close-up in effect isolates the face from the external particularities of body, environment and social context, conveying something both universal and purely inward. For me, this intimate view of Mary’s magnified face as she raises her downcast eyes toward Jesus evokes salvation history in a single glance.

1965: The Annunciation to Joseph (The Gospel According to St. Matthew)

How do you tell the story of Joseph coming to terms with Mary’s pregnancy when you are restricted to Matthew’s actual text, which provides neither dialogue nor psychological description? Pasolini begins his film with a close-up of Mary, then of Joseph, each face suggesting an unresolved tension between them. After two more awkward close-ups, we finally see a full shot of a pregnant Mary (full of dis-grace) and the problem becomes clear. The scene moves toward resolution through entirely visual means, like silent cinema, omitting even Matthew’s sparse narration. When speech (the angel’s “annunciation” to Joseph) finally does intrude into this silent world, it feels like the shock of the transcendent. In the beginning was the Word.

1969: Jesus the teacher (Son of Man)

The Jesus in this rarely seen British television production is neither meek nor mild. In his Sermon on the Mount, he moves energetically among the crowd, prodding and challenging them to think in new and uncomfortable ways. First he invites them to embrace the kinfolk around them as a sign of love. “That’s nice, isn’t it?” he says, noting how easy it is to love those who love you. It’s nothing extraordinary. “Do you want me to congratulate you for that?” Then he delivers the kicker: “Love your enemy!” As he lists specific examples of the enemies they should love, the crowd begins to murmur its dissent, to which Jesus responds emphatically: “Did I come to tell you easy things? Do you want me to tell you easy things?”

1973: Resurrection? (Godspell)

The dead Jesus is taken down from the chain link fence where he hangs suspended. As his followers carry his body through the strangely empty streets of New York, their song turns from sorrow to joy. Some begin to dance while they process, as if Jesus has risen anew in the bodies of his disciples. As for the body which had once called “Jesus,” it is taken around a corner, out of our sight. When the camera itself finally rounds that corner, the disciples and the body they carried are gone. Instead, we see hundreds of people walking toward us – the people you would see any day on a busy city street. The body we knew has “ascended” out of our sight, and Jesus returns in the form of everyone.

1977: The Prodigal Son (Jesus of Nazareth)

Jesus invites himself to a party at Matthew’s house. The disciples are shocked that he would dine with sinners. Peter, who really hates the “blood-sucking” tax collector, tries to stay away entirely, but curiosity finally brings him to stand just outside the door. When Jesus spots him peering in, he decides to tell a parable about two sons. Not only is this scene cinema’s best example of Jesus as storyteller, it makes the parable contextual, aimed directly at Peter (the “elder brother”) and Matthew (the “prodigal”). Both get the point; both are changed by it. The whole scene is perhaps the most moving “resurrection story” in the entire genre.

1988: Christ before Pilate (The Last Temptation of Christ)

David Bowie plays a blasé, sardonic Pilate in his interrogation of Jesus, whom he dismisses as just another Jewish troublemaker. This is not a conflicted, timorous official afraid of the crowd or hesitant to condemn an innocent man, but a cold-eyed realist who knows how the world works. When Jesus explains that he wants to bring change through love, not violence, Pilate recites the creed of the status quo: “Killing or loving, it doesn’t matter how you want to change things. We don’t want them changed.”

1998: Jesus returns (The Book of Life)

The only Jesus movie about the Second Coming begins with a shabbily dressed man outside a New York airport terminal, speaking in a loud voice to no one in particular: “Forgive me, Jesus, for I have sinned. Have mercy on us now and at the hour of our death.” Over and over he cries out in the flat, mechanical tone of a mind in disarray. Passersby give him a wide berth. Suddenly a man in a nice suit enters the frame to put a hand on the vagrant’s shoulder, silencing his repetitive plea with a touch and a look. This healing stranger turns out to be Jesus, who has just flown in – on New Year’s Eve, 1999 – to judge the living and the dead (though it later turns out he just wants to forgive everyone). Then Jesus moves on to catch a taxi, followed by Mary Magdalene, who in passing reassures the stunned vagrant. “It’s OK,” she says, before hurrying on to the apocalypse.

2004: The Agony in the Garden (The Passion of the Christ)

While many find this film unwatchable for its excessive violence and uncritical use of Passion Play caricatures, it begins with a memorably haunting Gethsemane sequence. Dimly lit in the olive grove, Jesus shows real agony. “I’ve never seen him like this,” whispers a worried disciple. The horror movie tropes – full moon, deep shadows, the anxious expectancy of a camera in motion – contribute to the sense of something beyond the ordinary taking place, as though we are in a supernatural thriller. And when Jesus falls to the ground to beg the cup of suffering to pass him by, we see Satan watching him closely. Together they enact a mythic prologue to the Passion narrative: Gethsemane becomes the Garden of Eden, but this time the human will not fall to the demonic. The snake will be crushed beneath the Savior’s foot. When Satan leans down over the anguished Jesus praying to his Father, he asks him, “Who is your Father?” This seems less like a taunt than a perfect expression of evil’s blindness. Not only is it unable to see the good; it is unable even to conceive it.

2006: The Annunciation (Son of Man)

This South African film’s prologue is a Temptation scene where Jesus rebukes Satan by saying, “This is my world.” “No!” Satan replies, “This is my world.” As if to prove Satan’s point, the film cuts to a 21st-century African country torn by violent civil strife. In a small town, armed guerillas are killing everyone in sight. A young woman, fleeing the violence, hides in a schoolroom, where she is horrified to find a pile of murdered students. She lies down among them to play dead until the killers pass by. When she finally opens her eyes, there is the angel Gabriel (a shirtless boy adorned with white feathers), announcing the birth of the Savior. Mary responds with the Magnificat, sung in a powerful South African idiom. Here is the gospel absolutely in the present tense.

The ten best Jesus movies

Enrique Irazoqui and Pier Paolo Pasolini on location for "The Gospel According to St. Matthew"

Enrique Irazoqui and Pier Paolo Pasolini on location for “The Gospel According to St. Matthew”

The Feast of the Epiphany, recalling the journey of the Magi to adore the Christ child, ultimately celebrates the “showing” of Christ to the world. It seems the perfect day to post my list of the “ten best” Jesus movies, a genre which has fascinated me ever since I was a child extra in my father’s production of “Day of Triumph.” Surprisingly, that independent film by an Episcopal priest was the only Jesus film produced in the 1950’s, a decade packed with every other kind of biblical film.

For the last twenty-five years, I have taught “Jesus and the Movies” in seminaries, churches and retreat centers. I use clips from 19 feature films made between 1912 and 2014. The films always provoke rich conversations about biblical studies, Christology, religious art and film studies. Perennial issues of representation and interpretation are both repeated and transformed by the film medium, and the Jesus films, for all their limitations and imperfections, ask each viewer: “Who do you say that I am?” Even you don’t like a particular movie Jesus, you are compelled to think about the Jesus movie in your own head, your own heart. How does it differ from (or resonate with) what is on the screen?

As I noted in a prior post on the ten best religious films, top ten lists are subjective, revisable and always questionable, which is what makes them fun. And the Jesus film genre, burdened by religious expectations, commercial considerations, artistic pretensions and cultural controversies, has not produced any completely great films (each has its flaws, and the gospels themselves resist translation into perfect narratives), but it has given us many great scenes. I’ll list my favorite scenes in another post, but for now, in chronological order, here are my ten recommendations for your Epiphany binge-watching.

King of Kings (1961) Nicholas Ray’s uneven, studio-butchered epic was savaged by reviewers (“Incontestably the corniest, phoniest, ickiest and most monstrously vulgar of all the big Bible stories,” thundered Time Magazine). Blue-eyed fan-mag cover boy Jeffrey Hunter, although 33 years old, was dismissed as the “teenage Jesus,” though other saw echoes of JFK, inspiring and youthful, or “James Dean without the delinquency” (Ray had also made Rebel Without a Cause). And religious critics found too much humanity, not enough divinity. So what’s it doing on my list? Well, Ray was a terrific director, and the film is very watchable. It is also a prime example of cultural context shaping both the making and the reception of a Jesus film. Released at a time when both the biblical epic and the dominant Protestant metanarrative were on the wane in America, it failed for interesting reasons. At the same time, a Jesus constantly preaching “peace and love” reflected the ongoing anxieties of the Cold War era. And where else can you get narration by Orson Welles, a marvelous epic score by Miklos Rozsa (of Ben Hur fame), and the longest traveling shot in film history (160 feet of track on a steep Spanish hillside)?

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1965) Pasolini’s black & white, hand-held, documentary “you are there” style, the rough-hewn faces of Italian non-actors, and the first dark-eyed Jewish Jesus all created an illusion of realism that instantly overthrew the conventions of biblical cinema. It is the first Jesus movie not to blend all four gospels or invent new dialogue and narration, though it significantly edits Matthew’s text (apocalyptic sayings, the Transfiguration, and some miracles are omitted). The director treats Jesus as a “revolutionary whirlwind” sweeping through Palestine. For some the protagonist is too strident, humorless and emotionally remote, but his relentless otherness nicely resists our domestication.

Jesus Christ Superstar/Godspell (1973) Permit me to link the Jesus musicals together: they came out in the same year, each is dated in its own way (singing and dancing on top of the World Trade Center, for example), and both remain strangely affecting, at least for persons of a certain age. In breaking the conventions of literal treatments, they not only opened new options for the genre, but influenced a rising generation of liturgists who brought street theater, comic play and contemporary music into the churches. Some critics glowered from the other side of a generational divide (“Jesus is just a teeny-bopper stoned on himself”), but there were more substantial controversies as well (in Superstar, a black Judas, an erotic Magdalene, Jewish villains caricatured as vultures, and a doubting Jesus). But each film provides a lively retelling with some very moving scenes.

Jesus of Nazareth (1977) Franco Zefferelli’s beautiful 6-hour miniseries on NBC, while shunning the artificial grandeur of Hollywood sets for a humbler, dustier Palestine, is suffused with its own pictorial conventions: Catholic iconography and Italian painting. Robert Powell’s engaging and self-assured Jesus, whose divine nature is clearly on display in key scenes, gives one of the most popular portrayals, though the film has been criticized for an overly interior spirituality that leaves the sociopolitical world untouched. Rather than trying to make Powell carry the entire burden of his character’s significance, Jesus of Nazareth focuses on the faces, reactions and emotions of his followers. Peter and Mary Magdalene, standing in for all of us who hear and follow, are unforgettable.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) The most controversial film of the genre prior to Mel Gibson’s Passion, Scorcese’s energetic, visceral take on the Kazanzakis novel is really a mashup of three bible characters: Jonah (the reluctant prophet resisting his inevitable vocation), Jesus of the gospels (creatively retold with a few quirky additions), and the Prodigal Son (who leaves the cross for the “far country” of a long, ordinary life, only to return “home” to Calvary at the end). This flawed but fascinating film has many firsts: the interior thoughts of Jesus, New York accents, sexuality, a restless camera always on the move, Peter Gabriel’s world music soundtrack, women at the Last Supper, and a novelistic source that exacerbates the confusions of fact and fiction.

Jesus of Montreal (1989) Denys Arcand’s postmodern play within a play furthered the transformation of a genre freeing itself from the restrictive conventions of piety and/or box-office caution. A group of contemporary actors, invited to reinvigorate a staid annual Passion Play, do so in wonderfully imaginative ways. At the same time, they find their personal lives starting to embody the characters they play. Earnest, clever and compelling, the film asks us to consider what it might mean to “play” Jesus in our own place and time.

Jesus (1999) This 4-hour television special offers a Jesus who seems quite modern in manner, speech and outlook. Jeremy Sisto is a “California slacker” type whose identity quest seems very American. This is often effective in putting us in the story, as if it’s something that could happen to us. But does it also reflect our own cultural selves so much that we can no longer believe we are seeing anything resembling history? An unprecedented use of special effects for the miraculous and mythic elements of the gospels is visually interesting, but it does create significant questions about what we are being asked to believe, since a special effect is transparently fictional, undermining the real but unseen content of faith.

The Miracle Maker (2000) Fresh, creative and often moving, this film uses claymation figures by Russian orthodox artists. Parables, dreams and inner experience are contrastingly rendered in two-dimensional animation. The engaging script, written by an Anglican, tells the Jesus story through the eyes of a child. The clay Jesus, resembling an eastern Christian icon (but with a ready smile) is more charismatic than many of his live-action brethren. The voice of Ralph Fiennes is part of the reason, but the animation itself engages us directly with the story in a way that real human faces do not. A dramatic film is always both a scripted fiction and also a kind of documentary about what the actors themselves are doing while the camera is rolling. With animation, you see only the story, not the actors, and that works beautifully here.

The Gospel of John (2003) This film gave itself a uniquely challenging task. Most Jesus movies invent dialogue to fill gaps in the narrative or articulate meanings left unsaid in gospel texts, but such a strategy is renounced here. The script uses only the words of the Fourth Gospel (in modern translation), forcing ingenious, if occasionally labored, strategies to keep the story moving and the viewer involved. The long speeches of the “Farewell Discourses” (John 13-17) are the supreme example. Ian Cusick’s Jesus is warm and passionate. You may never again hear “I am the bread of life” without seeing his smile.

Son of Man (2006) Produced in South Africa, it sets the Jesus story within a fictional 21st century African country beset by the horrendous legacy of colonialism, corporate exploitation, and factionalism. The first black movie Jesus is deeply embedded in contemporary times, teaching nonviolence to his disciples while speaking out against corrupt and evil powers. But we never lose sight of the original gospel story. The stunning depictions of Annunciation, Pieta and Resurrection will knock you flat. And the singing! So exhilarating. Here is a film where you really “meet Jesus again for the first time.”