2011 was a good year for film, and particularly for depictions of faith in film ”” but not in the Hollywood mainstream on either count.
This year, in one Hollywood film after another, religion was strikingly absent in tragic or crisis-filled times. George Clooney was widowed in The Descendants; Matt Damon widowed in both Contagion and We Bought a Zoo; Nicole Kidman bereaved of a child in Rabbit Hole (which had a limited opening in December 2010); all suffered bereavement with scarcely any acknowledgment of religion (except, in Kidman’s case, to reject it). Contagion, in particular, depicted all sorts of social consequences of a global pandemic except the role of faith in times of crisis. The black Baptist church in The Help was a rare exception.
Outside the Hollywood mainstream, it was another story. The French drama Of Gods and Men (easily my favorite film of the year) and the English documentary No Greater Love offered remarkable depictions of monastery life. Passion plays featured in two art films: Polish artist Lech Majewski’s The Mill & the Cross and Milanese architect Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte (The Four Times).