First Reformed

First Reformed ★★★★★

"Every act of preversion is an act of creation. Everything preserved renews creation. It's how we participate in creation."

First Reformed is the best Paul Schrader work since Taxi Driver that also feels a lot like a follow up of Scorsese's film but much more mature and darker. Reverend Ernst Toller seeks for a salvation and desperately wants to prove his existence to the world just like Travis Bickle, they're both damaged goods and their past still haunts them even if they aren't aware of that.

Paul Schrader knows very well what it feels like to be in despair, to be trapped and detached. The way First Reformed shot and directed suggests you that you will be detached from the characters but in this case this is quite the opposite, it only strengthens your sympathy and empathy towards the characters, those cold and static shots works perfectly as a mirror of our indifferent and corrupted world. I honestly cannot think of anyone beside Michelangelo Antonioni who is/was capable of consciously detaching you from the characters but due to the indifferent and hostile environment in which the characters exist only gaining the level of your engagement in the story from it. Ethan Hawke is phenomenal, he doesn't burst into rage, tears or laughter but his face is always full of emotions without really showing any, and also his calm voice that sounds like it's ready burst into scream... he's like a time bomb that can go off at any second.

Static camera, trivial story and existentialism, Schrader just said fuck it all and made a movie as if he was Carl Theodor Dreyer, Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky or Ingram Bergman but with his unfeigned ferocious style. He took existentialism and fierce spirit of Taxi Driver and mixed it with despair and struggle of faith of Winter Light. First Reformed is a thought-provoking and unsettling character study, Paul Schrader challenges Toller's faith through his despair and disappointment under defiled and apathetic world of capitalism.

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