Fall Break Culture Highlights from Irish Rover Staff

Nico Schmitz, Culture Editor: Fatima — directed by Marco Pontecorvo

This 2020 film, available to stream on Netflix, shatters any misconceptions about the compatibility of faith-based stories and cinematically beautiful or profound films. This historically based dramatization of the well-known Marian apparitions and Miracle of the Sun in Portugal makes the story of Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco alive in such a way that the faithful viewer is not only haunted by the mystery of the apparitions but also thrown into a contemplative and prayerful journey. The hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, which includes a track by Andrea Bocelli, alongside the radiant and awe-inspiring scenery of the Portuguese countryside, further add to the atmosphere of mystery, tranquility, and beauty of the apparitions. The story itself resonates so much with the viewer because it honestly depicts the severe hardships and obstacles of the children as they face temptation in its face. The film can speak to any viewer as it captures the realities of both faith and doubt while also unapologetically portraying the Blessed Mother’s message of conversion, mortification, and devotion to the Rosary.

Mary Frances Myler, Editor-in-Chief: Vessel — The Accidentals

Vessel, an album by The Accidentals released October 1, 2021, offers a new installment of the band’s unique sound combined with poignant and perpetually-memorable lyrics. An eclectic blend of indie-folk, alternative, pop, and rock combine to create an album with near-universal appeal. Sometimes contemplative, sometimes defiant, Vessel is a musical meditation which band-member Sav Buist described as  “taking everything into perspective, zooming out, seeing where we are, [and not] feeling like we’re trying to race to get to a certain place.” Personal favorite songs from the album are “Cityview,” “Wildfire,” “Count the Rings,” and “Slow and Steady.”

Sarah Hui, Religion Editor: The Secret of Kells — directed by Tomm Moore

The powers of animation fuse the kaleidoscopic and the geometric in this 2009 film about the creation of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels from the 9th century. With graphics evocative of flat perspective, stained glass, and the interwoven intricacy original to the text, the film undeniably delivers great visual splendor and beauty, although the evanescence of it all might leave viewers scratching their heads for a coherent thesis. The plot chugs along the tracks of the trite theme of youth’s rebellion against backward authority, yet offers touching moments of friendship and reconciliation along the way. While the film’s magical elements bely the manuscript’s Christian roots, together all contribute to a message of light’s prevalence over darkness, and hope’s victory over death. Come for the visuals, and stay for the myriad of Irish accents.

Lizzie Self, Managing Editor: The Just Assassins — Albert Camus

Based on the story of the group of Russian Socialist-Revolutionaries who assassinated the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich in 1905, this dramatic work by Camus blends historical fiction and moral philosophy. The play follows a small number of revolutionaries as they execute their objective and challenges readers to consider what it takes to be a killer, on what grounds one might kill, and what hope of reconciliation killers might have. Lizzie found this quick, poignant read the most enjoyable stage of her thesis research yet.

Luke Koenigsknecht, Webmaster: Dune — directed by Denis Villeneuve

This movie is the latest attempt at a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction novel of the same name. Set in the far future where the feudal Imperium rules the known universe, interstellar travel is only made possible by the spice melange, a substance that allows precognition. Spice is only found on the desert planet Arrakis, inhabited by the dangerous sandworms and the seclusive indigenous tribes known as the Fremen. Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) is handed over control of Arrakis by the Emperor. Many questions arise: how will he and his son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) navigate this new stage for their noble family, and what do Paul’s strange premonitions of the future mean? What is the mysterious Bene Gesserit sisterhood, and how is Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), involved with them and their strange arts? How will the Atreides fend off the rival Harkonnen clan? Find out in this visually stunning and amazingly crafted film!

W. Joseph DeReuil, Executive Editor: A Severe Mercy — Sheldon Vanauken

This mid-twentieth century classic gives an autobiographical account of Vanauken and his wife Davy’s journey from an atheistic, yet almost pagan, love of beauty to Christianity in search of the timeless. A Severe Mercy is a love story on two accounts—both between “Van” and Davy, but also between the two of them and God. From the idyllic opening scene looking out over Vanauken’s childhood home, Glemerle (intentionally reminiscent of the opening to Brideshead Revisited) to the word-for-word recounting of letters exchanged between Van and his close friend from his time at Oxford, C.S. Lewis, this book recounts through poetic imagery the desires, both holy and disordered, which bring the heart of both to rest in love with each other and in the mercy of God: a mercy which, even when discovered, can be severe and heart-wrenching while on this earth.

Zef Crnkovich, Politics Editor: Hacksaw Ridge — directed by Mel Gibson

Hacksaw Ridge is a film about courage and conscience. Conscientious objector Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) enlists in the U.S. Army as a combat medic in 1942. Two years later, the Seventh-day Adventist who refuses to touch a weapon has a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and has been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Gibson’s film details the true story of Doss’s courage on Okinawa Island, where he rescues 50–100 (his modest estimate compared with his commanding officer’s judgment) wounded American soldiers from certain death over the course of a day and a half, lowering them down a 35-foot cliff with an improvised rope sling. Hacksaw Ridge teaches true fortitude through Doss’s sacrifices and the contrasting, suicidal cowardice of the Japanese officers. Doss’s actions reveal the importance of living in the truth of one’s well-formed conscience. Early on in the movie, he faces a court-martial for disobeying orders. The prosecution’s statement begins, “Private Doss waves his morality at us like it’s some kind of badge of honor.” These prophetic words should ring true for our lives as well, as we live the Catholic faith with humility and charity.

Sean Tehan, Politics Editor: The Trial — Franz Kafka

Personally recommended by Justice Clarence Thomas, The Trial begins with the chilling line: “Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.” In typical Kafkaesque fashion, the novel leads us into a world plagued by dystopian bureaucracies that lack any discernible standards for due process. Throughout the novel, we never discover what crime the state accuses Josef K. of committing. We walk with the protagonist as he grows in disdain and righteous indignation for the injustices committed against him. This book serves as an easy, yet disturbing, read about totalitarianism, the importance of truth, and the deleterious excesses of modern bureaucracy.

Dane Litchfield, Social Media Coordinator: The Hillbilly Thomists — The Hillbilly Thomists

The debut album for the band, this collection features songs that embody the Dominican spirit in a bluegrass style. Featuring both covers of classic songs like “Amazing Grace” and original compositions such as “I’m a Dog,” these Dominican priests embody the New Evangelization in such a way that their unexpected musical style effectively communicates the realities of the faith and the nuances of contemplative prayer and action in the world. Listening to their music, one is transported to the Appalachian mountains with a guitar in one hand and the Bible in the other. Dane met one of the Hillbilly Thomists while on retreat with the Thomistic Institute before Fall Break, and is looking forward to the release of their third album. Before listening to this album, Dane did not particularly enjoy bluegrass music but now blares it during his commutes to campus.