Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.
The quote, at first, is hopeful. But in the end, is teeming with unresolved tension. It is evocative, intentionally ambiguous.
Calvary, the recent Irish film from writer/director John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleeson as Father James Lavelle, opens with this quote from Augustine. (A quote, incidentally, that was also used by Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot.) And, indeed, the quote sets the stage for that which is to come. The film is anything but tidy. It is a whodunit, after all. The film begins with Father James receiving a confession. From whom, we’re not quite sure. The confession, in and of itself, is troubling, as the confessor tells Father James that he plans to kill him a week from Sunday.
The why is what really got my attention. The confessor has been abused at the hands of a priest. At first, one assumes that it is Father James who is the culprit. But we find out that the confessor intends to kill the Father because he’s done nothing wrong. That’s correct. In a world full of scandal, abuse, etc., Father James Lavelle is wholly innocent. It is at this moment that we are told why the confessor intends to murder the Father––’there’s no point in killing a bad priest, but killing a good one, that would be a shock now…wouldn’t know what to make of that.’ Read more