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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Seventh Sign

- one of the seven seals

This week's movie rental was The Seventh Sign ...

a 1988 apocalyptic drama film written by Clifford and Ellen Green and directed by Carl Schultz. The title and plot reference the seven seals described in the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament of the Bible.

Signs of the apocalypse are appearing, along with a mysterious wanderer. Father Lucci (Peter Friedman) is the Vatican official investigating them. He dismisses the occurrences as natural, but Abby Quinn (Demi Moore) believes that they are real.

In the film, Jürgen Prochnow portrays Jesus' return to Earth in the year 1988 to judge humanity. The final judgment is averted by an act of faith that prevents the final sign of the apocalypse from occurring.

In the film, through a flashback, Prochnow also portrays the original Jesus on the eve of his crucifixion. Father Lucci is revealed to be Cartaphilus, a Roman Centurion and Pilate's porter who struck Jesus before his death and was sentenced to wander the Earth until Christ returned to judge mankind. The Lucci-Cartaphilus character is a combination of the Longinus and the Wandering Jew legends. In the movie, Abby—who is soon to give birth—discovers that she is actually the reborn woman some identify as Seraphia, the woman who offered Christ water during the Crucifixion but was turned away by Cartaphilus. She learns that the prophecies lead up to the birth of her child, who may not survive because there will be no more souls left for the newborns unless someone offers their own.

- Prochnow as Jesus

I had seen this film on tv years ago and posted something about it and it has turned out to be one of the most popular posts of the blog, according to site-meter, so I thought I'd give it a second look. This time, as back when I first watched it, I found the movie scary and very depressing. Here below is what I wrote back in 2007.

* * *

The Gospel reading for today (Lk 17:26-37) is kind of apocalyptic ...

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them —it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.’ Then they asked him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’

Yikes! I don't really understand what's meant. Is "the day the Son of Man is revealed" the same end-time scenario as is written of in Revelation? There are many interpretations of the end-time, some fairly positive like the one in this article from America magazine - Apocalypse When? - and many much less so, like that in the Left Behind books. For the most part, I try not to think about it too much, but every once in a while a movie comes along and I find myself watching despite my better judgement.

- Demi as Abby

One such movie is The Seventh Sign. I wish I could say it's a sequel to Bergman's The Seventh Seal but it's nowhere near as profound nor well done - it falls rather into the guilty pleasure category, the guilty part being its questionable theology, the pleasure part being twofold: Michael Biehn (The Terminator and Aliens) has a part in it :-) and even better, Jesus actually shows up, which is unusual in this kind of movie.

The movie, made in 1988 and starring Jürgen Prochnow of Das Boot fame as Jesus, Demi Moore, and Michael Biehn, tells the tale of the day of judgement, when Jesus returns to the earth with seven seals, breaking them one after the other, causing a number of natural disturbances. Jesus takes his time with the breaking of the seals, and while he's in LA, he rents a room over the garage of the home of Abby (Moore) and her husband (Biehn). As Abby gets acquainted with her strange lodger, she tries to figure out what the weird natural occurrences mean. A Catholic priest is also paying attention to the signs, and for good reason - he is actually a Roman Centurion who struck Jesus before the crucifixion, and who's been doomed to walk the earth undying until the second coming.

- - John Heard's priest character answers some questions about the apocalypse for Abby's Jewish friend

Roger Ebert didn't like it much and gave it 2 out of 4 stars in his review. Here's a bit of it ... ...

"The Seventh Sign" begins with portents of the apocalypse. The rivers run with blood, the sea boils, the desert freezes, the birds fall from the sky, the earth shakes, and things are not so hot out on the beach in California, either. A strange man with burning eyes has just rented the little apartment over the garage in the backyard of Demi Moore's house, and she finds ancient Hebrew manuscripts in his desk - in a secret code .....

Moore has the central role, as a woman who has lost one child during pregnancy and is now fearful of losing another. The story begins in the last two months of her pregnancy, with her husband (Michael Biehn) lending moral support ..... She provides a strong center to the film, but the rest of it, alas, is all over the map. I am not even sure I completely understood all of the details. What connection was there, for example, between the Hebrew code letters with their wax seals and the dread events that followed every time one was opened? What were those flashbacks to Roman times? Who was that strange priest who traveled around the globe, checking out the frozen deserts and bloody rivers? And on whose side was the boarder over the garage? By the end of the movie, I was fairly certain of the answers to most of those questions, but the body of the film seemed almost deliberately confused and obscure, to no purpose. Why not explain the priest's actual mission, instead of saving it for a denouement at the last minute? Wouldn't that have been more interesting? And why is it that only the characters in the movie seem to be aware that things are going to hell and the apocalypse is at hand? .....

And then there is the problem of the ending of the movie ....

I can't tell you about the end of the movie - don't want to spoil it for anyone - and neither can I tell you about the end of the world ..... your best bet is to turn back to the Gospel reading above, and good luck with that :-)


Blogger Susan said...

Too scary for me. Besides, apocalyptic is awkward to type. :-)

8:10 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

True :)

11:11 AM  

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