However the tale is intended, what I like about the movie is the frank portrayal of the abbot (if that is his title), who has lost the faith but continues to run the monastery as its "superintendent." It shows in dramatic form how cynical many of the leaders must be, and how they'll employ a false concept of obedience to level any resistance.
I had the same impression of the movie.
I thought it was well-made, largely because of the typically Irish actors. They were playing the part of someone that wasn't unlike who they really are. If you want an Irish character, get an Irish actor, because it's not easy to pretend
that you're Irish when you're NOT, and do so convincingly.
There are numerous very brief moments when various actors do things and say things that only an Irishman would do, and it is very entertaining to watch that. They show the spark of their inextinguishable cultural faith in very subtle and simple movements and expressive words in context. A most telling moment is when the monk in the rowboat pulls up to the stone steps with Sheen standing there, and the monk can't believe that Sheen is a priest because of his clothing, which appeared to be like a motorcycle rider's outfit, with leather jacket and boots on. The boatman looked around and then refused Sheen to board, even SWINGING A STICK at him, perhaps a Shillelagh! Those 5 or 10 seconds are simply genius,
and most hilarious. They are excellent entertainment and well worth replaying several times. They get funnier every time you replay them. Later on in the movie, when Sheen arrives at the monastery in a helicopter, our understanding of the Irish expectation for how a priest should look is enlarged by one monk in the room with the abbot, who can't believe Sheen is a priest, either, merely based on the appearance of his clothing.
There are instances all throughout the film, such as when the monk brings Irish soda bread up to Sheen, who then not so subtly proceeds to NOT "enjoy" it. Another moment is when Sheen is moved through the refectory by the abbot, forbidding his monks from speaking to him. Then there was the fishing scene at the water, and the words of the expert fisherman -- remember the Apostles were fishermen. The symmetry is palpable. The visitor is from Rome, and he is no expert fisherman, but he has to go to this "John the Baptist" niche in the water's edge rocks to be shown a real fisherman. Between the loaves of soda bread and the fishes of the cove, we can recall the miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Gospel. These things are all over the movie.
"However the tale in intended," the frank portrayal of each character, most prominently the abbot, is most edifying, really.
When I first saw the movie, I had never heard of "Rock Mass" in Ireland, and I had never heard of "Mass Rocks" as being places that physically exist there. Therefore, the opening scene of a priest saying Mass on rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean was surreal to me, rather bizarre, actually, and appeared to be contrived. The thought crossed my mind that maybe this is something that may have actually happened somewhere in Ireland, but it also appeared to be some kind of "Woodstock" scene, with people in the open air gathering for an event. I couldn't make heads or tails of the cultural significance because I had not known of Irish "Rock Masses."
There is another thread here on CI that explores this theme in some detail.
All I had been able to understand is that those people were gathering on the mainland in a remote place for Mass, and that the priest who was the celebrant had come over from an island nearby, during the time when local parishes had abandoned the TLM in favor of the NovusOrdo liturgy, in 1970 or '71.
The people came carrying signs protesting the changes in the Mass. But who were the signs for? Who was there to read the signs other than more people with the same ideas in mind? The only person was the character played by Martin Sheen, who was effectively depicted as an OUTSIDER, one whose part later in the movie made it clear that he was no friend of Tradition, and had been sent from Rome to deal with a "problem of Resistance," one which CathInfo
is really all about. So it's very good advice for all members of CathInfo
to watch the movie, and I recommend watching it more than once.