Forty-six year old Reverend Ernst Toller is the pastor at the historic First Reformed Church in upstate New York. It is seen as the "tourist" church or the "souvenir shop" (its historical significance partly it being a stop on the underground railroad before the slaves crossed into Canada) by Abundant Life, which owns the church and which operates a modern self-named five thousand seat church overseen by Reverend Joel Jeffers. First Reformed is celebrating its two hundred fiftieth anniversary this year, for which a major event is planned, modest in size only at First Reformed itself although the dignitaries like the governor and mayor will be at attendance there, while the event will be simulcast at Abundant Life. Most of the speech-making will be done by local industrialist Ed Balq, a major benefactor of Abundant Life and who is the major donor for the necessary upgrades at First Reformed to be able to hold the event there, and for the event itself, while Toller's participation will ...Written by
Screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival. See more »
In the voiceover, Toller tells how he went into the church one night and "fell asleep on a bench." No ordained minister would ever call a "pew" a "bench." See more »
Reverend Ernst Toller:
I have decided to keep a journal. Not in a word program or digital file, but in longhand, writing every word out so that every inflection of penmanship, every word chosen, scratched out, revised, is recorded. To set down all my thoughts and the simple events of my day factually and without hiding anything. When writing about oneself, one should show no mercy. I will keep this diary for one year; 12 months. And at the end of that time, it will be destroyed. Shredded, then burnt. The...
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First Reformed is a movie about religion. It is about big business and the environmental destruction of which they are to blame. It is about a willingness of the Church to turn a blind eye in the face of sin. It is about love. It is about hope. But these subjects fall away as Paul Schrader tightens his focus onto a detached pastor. An unnerving and bleak look into the despair that can envelope the most faithful or the most hopeful, Ethan Hawke's brutally honest presentation of an unsure and resentful man along with foreboding gray scaled cinematography leaves the audience asking: But what of man? What of this broken man in particular? Why does man fear their own destruction so greatly that they are willing to end their life before that destruction could take them? Paul Schrader's newest film may be shrouded in politics, religion, or the philosophy of love, faith, or hope, but behind the obvious horror lies the subconscious dread. Not the existential dread of living in an imperfect and devastating world, but the fear of how oneself will react to the overwhelming despair of a reality with little hope.
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