I had the privilege of viewing the new film, Restless Heart, on the life of Saint Augustine.
I struggled going in, considering for how long I envisioned what it should be like. Indie, and artsy. Cinematographic interplays of darkness & light, and a lot of visually stunning natural beauty shots. A non-orchestral soundtrack, perhaps a string quintent, and some folksy songs. A non-linear story, focusing primarily on Augustine’s Christian life, drawing on images illustrated from the Confessions. Alas, none of that would likely work, or be translated from my heart.
The film we watched, Restless Heart, was obviously a more mainstream, and international endeavor. It was not too-Hollywood, neither was it too hagiographical (a la family-friendly saint lifestory). It had its strengths, but perhaps there was so much wrong with it. Many people in our community were very bothered by the lack of historical accuracy, whereas I was more troubled by the aesthetic cheapness.
The overall strength, was the actual character of Augustine. He was so charismatic and popular, attractive by the voice and the preaching. Augustine had an amazing voice, and I think they nailed it in this film. At times, we get a sense of a personal conflict by the actor, but we could have used much more on the part of the film to accentuate this.
Visually, there could have been a lot more then making it like your typical melodramatic romance. As well, the score was too overly done and lacked earnestness and honesty. Aside from the historical liberties, there was much that is so significant in Augustine, from an Augustinian perspective, which was not acknowledged in the film. The importance of friendship was not included (Alypius was not even a character). You get no glimpse of Augustine’s passion of discovering God amidst a community of friends. Instead, he is on a singular quest, in which his whole conversion scene almost feels disembodied.
Augustine was transplanted in todays religion-secular struggle, relativism-objectivism, faith-agnosticism, were the primary lenses in which Augustine was expressed in this film. Augustine is made into a much more intellectual seeker, then a passionate lover of Truth. I did appreciate the angle of this film, and it was able to incorporate his love of rhetoric/public speaking. However, it just felt like was more interested in dealing with the dynamic then some of the more complicated aspects of Augustine’s personality.
That being said, Augustinian Spirituality has a special place for Interiority & the Search for Truth. Having this theme focused on film may do well for a lot of people. It was moving at times, in as genuinely human it came across at times. I am very hesitant to put an Augustinian (personal or community) stamp of approval on this one, but I still encourage people to view it.