A look at faith in film over the last decade

At a time of rapid secularization, filmmakers seem intrigued—if sometimes also repelled—by religion.

We live in an age of remarkably impressive films about religious faith. A survey of just the past decade reveals multiple presentations that would have to be included in any list of the greatest films ever made about Christianity or on Christian themes. At a time when many advanced countries are secularizing rapidly, filmmakers seem intrigued—if sometimes simultaneously repelled—by faith.

Many of these modern classics deal very sympathetically with belief and believers, and specifically with monks and religious orders. Paradoxically, societies that strenuously exclude faith from everyday life are fascinated by religious experience that happens in strictly defined contexts. Cloistered settings al­low for the exploration of agonizing Christian dilemmas about suffering and divine justice.

France, the birthplace of secularism and laïcité, produced Of Gods and Men (2010), about the heroic monks martyred by jihadis in Algeria. It’s arguably the greatest Christian film of modern times. From the same country, The Innocents (2016) depicts a Polish convent in the aftermath of World War II after many of the nuns have been raped by Soviet soldiers. Another convent provides the setting for the much-praised Polish film Ida (2013), about a Catholic nun discovering her lost Jewish identity. In the United States, Martin Scorsese gave us the unforgettable Silence (2016), about Jesuit martyrs in Japan.