MPAA Rating, Not rated at the time of this review
USCCB Rating: Not rated at the time of this review
Reel Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Now, he has created the first film not about a saint but a commonly misunderstood doctrine: Purgatory. The film employs the writings and experiences of many saints combined with contemporary theologians to paint a picture not just of what purgatory may look like us, but—most importantly—how the living are perceived by our beloved departed.
It’s a timely program for a modern world that constantly avoids and tries to escape death, but must be reminded of everyone’s inevitable fate and of the afterlife.
While not a biography, the film centers around the life of Polish mystic Fulla Horak. In early adulthood, during the 1920s, she was a hardened atheist and boldly challenged a Christian friend’s foolish faith at a party. Her friend is unfazed, and Horak discovers that she had no responses to her friend’s rebuttals.
A decade later, Horak was not only Catholic but God allowed her to see the souls in Purgatory. She compiled her visions into a book entitled Afterlife. The film uses this book and other mystics, such as Padre Pio, as the springboard from which to discuss the concept. It must be admitted that, as of this writing, I could find little information (in English) about Horak and her visions. I have no knowledge of the canonical status of the visions or the overall holiness of Horak’s life. However, the theological information given in the film is entirely orthodox.
Purgatory is a place of hope but also great suffering. There is hope because Heaven is so near; yet suffering as the souls has not yet fully detached themselves from sin and the world. Thus, the dead need our prayers and attention. Again and again, Horak has visions of souls begging her to pray for them and mourning how their own family has forgotten them.
Prayer for the dead is a vital spiritual work of mercy just as important as feeding the hungry. It is a sobering fact that there are more dead people than living ones, nearly all of whom need our prayer at some point. The gates of Heaven are not iron but pearly, and we must keep our relationship with the Church Suffering just as fresh as with the Church Militant.
As a cinematic work, Purgatory is not nearly as compelling as Love and Mercy, mostly due to the lack of a central narrative. It was also disappointing that Kondrat does not explore the Biblical roots of Purgatory. However, there are plenty of keen insights and dozens of interesting accounts. I was especially interested in the “purgatory relic” phenomena, which I previously did not know existed. Apparently souls in purgatory will leave physical impressions on objects to make their presence known. There is even a gallery of these objects in the Vatican Museum, including a clear handprint on a sacred text left during prayer.
Kondrat is a fine filmmaker who, it must be acknowledged, still has some growing to do as an artist. However, every film he creates is a powerful work of evangelization, and I eagerly await his annual entry. While these films may not be great entertainment for a Saturday, they are essential viewing for classrooms. I hope for many more.
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