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Reform Magazine | May 18, 2024

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Reviews June 2023 - Reform Magazine

Reviews June 2023

Interrogating the text

Reality
Directed by Tina Satter
Certificate 12a, 83 minutes
Released 2 June

A film named after not, as you might imagine, a state of truth, but a young woman, the main protagonist Reality Winner (Sydney Sweeney). She works in a US security facility, translating documents from Farsi to English. The room in which she works separates its workers into cubicles with dual computer screens and workstations. TVs on the wall constantly play Fox News.

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. This is not one of those ‘based on a true story’ movies; it actually is a true story in that the dialogue (along with the pauses within it) is lifted from the FBI transcript of the real life interrogation of the real life Reality Winner.

So, the actors take the words, pauses and so forth, and bring them to life with their craft. And while they do so most convincingly – Sweeney is terrific and so, too, are the two interrogators, Special Agent Garrick (Josh Hamilton) and Special Agent Taylor (Marchánt Davis) – the fact that the words they speak are the actual words from the actual transcript has a curious, distancing effect, which at times seems extremely surreal. The word became flesh. Discuss.

This atmosphere is bolstered by some smart filmmaking decisions in what could so easily have felt like tedious filmed theatre, but has instead been reconceived from the transcript as a compelling movie. In fact, the director Tina Satter previously wrote a critically acclaimed Broadway play about the same incident. She is clearly fascinated by the way the two FBI men (we note that these are men, not women, sent in to interrogate a woman) manipulate their subject into telling them what they want to hear.

Bits of the transcript are redacted. Sometimes we see the printed transcript with words inked out. However, much of the time, the redactions are conveyed by white-outs or flare-outs, as if the subject were forgetting either the words as she utters them or the moments encompassing their utterance. Since the whole experience proves an ordeal for both her and the audience, this gives the impression she may be on the verge of losing consciousness, perhaps due to stress or mental trauma.

It’s another movie about Paul’s ‘spiritual wickedness in high places’. There’s a lot of that about at the moment.

Jeremy Clarke is a film critic. His website is jeremycprocessing.com

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Monarchs with a mission

Defenders of the Faith: The British monarchy, religion and the coronation
Catherine Pepinster
Hodder and Stoughton
£25
ISBN 978-1-399-80007-5

With so much focus on the coronation of Charles III, this timely book lays out the history of the British monarchy and the relationship between the faith of its office holders and the institutional Church. It provides a full, scholarly answer to the question, How did we get to here? It also begins to address the supplementary question, What next? ‘Now that Queen Elizabeth is gone, what has always been bubbling away beneath the surface seems just that bit more evident.’

Pepinster explores the concept of kingship in both Old and New Testaments. Words from 1 Kings 1 were first used in the coronation and anointing of the Saxon King Edgar in 973, and since the coronation of George II, Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ has been sung at every coronation – including that of Charles III. Pepinster then explains how the New Testament expands the calling of kingship from power tempered with wisdom and duty, to give equal emphasis to shepherding, servanthood and sacrifice…

Ian Fosten is the book reviews editor for Reform

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A journey into Love

I, Julian
Claire Gilbert
Hodder and Stoughton
£18.99
ISBN 978 1 399 80752 4

If you are at all interested in the world of contemplative prayer and how it lives on today, then take a look at this novel. It is a fairly easy read, with flowing prose which engages the reader.

I, Julian is a novel based on the life of Julian of Norwich, whose visions were written down around the year 1373. These classic writings, entitled Revelations of Divine Love, were the first written by a woman in English and have lived on to this day. Claire Gilbert has taken the historical facts and an obvious love of Julian’s life and writings and transformed them into a work of fiction, which brings Julian’s world to life.

The novel looks at the possible story of Julian’s whole life in the world of plague, uprisings, and the Catholic mother Church of the time, and gives an insight into how Julian might have lived out her unusual vocation…

Mary Irish is a retired United Reformed Church minister and spiritual director

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This article was published in the June 2023 edition of Reform

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