Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Welcome to the Spanish Inquisition"

This week's movie rental was Assassin's Creed ...

a 2016 action adventure film based on the video game franchise of the same name. The film is directed by Justin Kurzel, written by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, and stars Michael Fassbender (who also co-produced), Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Williams. The film is set in the same universe as the video games but features an original story that expands the series' mythology, taking place during the Spanish Inquisition.

I was hoping the movie would be worth a watch because Michael Fassbender was involved and because it seemed to be somehow Catholic related. Sadly, the movie was not very good at all - see Assassin's Creed review – Michael Fassbender game movie achieves transcendental boredom and Assassin's Creed, review: Even Michael Fassbender can't make this junk leap off the screen.

Here's the basic plot .....

For thousands of years two opposing groups, the Assassins and the Knights Templar, have been trying to find an artifact from Eden, the Apple, which holds the key to man's free will. The Templars want to use the Apple to take away that free will but the Assassins want to preserve men's freedom of choice by hiding the Apple away. Back in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition and the Granada War, one of the Assassins, Aguilar de Nerha, was able to snatch the Apple from the leader of the Inquisition (and Templar, according to the film), Tomás de Torquemada, who had just blackmailed the artifact away from its then protector, the Sultan of Granda, Muhammad XII. Aguilar then gave the Apple to Christopher Columbus to keep safe.

In the present day, Callum Lynch, a descendant of Aguilar and a criminal on death row, is taken captive (his death faked) by the still existing Templars who are continuing to search for the Apple. They have the technical capability to send Lynch's consciousness back to meld with that of Aguilar's at the time he had possession of the Apple .... they use Lynch and his experiences as Aguilar to find the Apple in Columbus' tomb in Seville Cathedral,. Here's the real tomb ...

What was hard to swallow about the movie was not just the idea that someone could inhabit the consciousness of an ancestor, but also that there was really an Eden and an Apple ... the theory of evolution has shown there never was a time when all creatures lived in harmony in some perfect environment.

About the Templars ... Pope Clement V and King Philip IV of France disbanded the order, arrested the members, took their assets, and burned the Grand Master at the stake (1307-12). So, it's not possible that Torquemada was a Templar and in fact he was a Dominican. Except .... a lot of Templars were thought to have gone underground when the arrest orders went out and it's said that some found sanctuary in Scotland with Robert the Bruce, so I guess it's remotely possible some of them infiltrated the Dominican order ;)

About the historical setting of the film - the Spanish Inquisition. There was an effort at historical revisionism done by the Vatican some years ago on the Inquisition(s), an attempt to spin it/them as not so bad. Here's the beginning of an article from Newsweek on that ...

Back in the Middle Ages, the Inquisition was a byword for fear and terror in Europe. Its tribunals, set up by the Vatican to ensure that "heretics" did not undermine the authority of the increasingly powerful Roman Catholic Church, burned and tortured witches, blasphemers and members of other faiths. Its judges condemned Galileo for saying that the Earth revolved around the Sun and executed thousands over the course of several centuries. Often, the best that the condemned could hope for was that they'd be strangled before being set alight at the stake.

Now, after centuries of secrecy on the subject, the Vatican has launched a new phase in its campaign to show that the Inquisition wasn't so bad after all. Church authorities have unveiled a temporary "Rare and Precious" exhibition at Rome's Vittoriano Museum to "expose some myths" about this dark chapter of its past. The exhibit is also intended as a modern-day object lesson for governments and armies—particularly those in the United States and Europe—who torture enemies and suspected terrorists, says curator Marco Pizzo. Not only does the church have an obligation to expose its own mistakes, he says, but the exhibit is also meant to help foster understanding of the complex nature of the church's history.

The "rare and precious" artifacts do not include notorious objects like racks or impaling tools. Rather, the 60 items on show for free to the public show just how much control the church exerted over the daily lives of medieval Europeans. The display includes documents about the church's restrictions on the movement of Jews, instructions for persecuting Protestants—including by hanging—and the "correction" of a Crucifixion drawing that removes blood spurting from the knees of Jesus. There are 18th-century maps outlining the ghettos of Rome, Ancona and Ferrara, depicting where Jews could live in pink or yellow and where they were allowed to keep businesses in blue. There are documents with handwritten regulations describing when Jewish women could be out of the gated areas and what they could wear. There are sketches of prisons and extensive lists of banned books and written edicts, like one from 1611 that outlines how inquisitors should comport themselves both on the job and off and an illustration showing what their children should wear to school and to the beach. The investigators are even told what pajamas are acceptable ....

There's really no honest way to sanitize the events of the Inquisition. A brief retrospective ...

The Spanish version lasted from 1478 to 1834 ... yes, almost 400 years. It was established by Ferdinand and Isabella, she putting her favorite confessor, Torquemada, in charge as Grand Inquisitor, to enforce Catholic orthodoxy, and it took place not just in Spain but also in its territories of the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America. It locked people up, tortured them, and burned them alive. Thousands of them.

But anyway, is the movie worth seeing? If you like the video game or if you're a fan of Fassbender, it may be worth it, but it's not what I would call a good film. Still, it had some interesting themes. Here's the trailer ...


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