The Apostle (1997)
Here is a singular piece of cinema; a film that takes on a life of its own and simply flows along with the very distinctive milieu and the highly universal themes it explores. The driving force behind it all is Robert Duvall, the prolific actor who by this point was well-established as one of America's finest and most versatile. He had written the story about the Southerner and preacher Euliss "Sonny" Dewey back in 1984, but couldn't get financing for the project. So when he was finally able to get the green light, it was after he had provided most of the financing and taken the director's helm himself. This is of course a testament to how personal a story this was for Duvall, and not least to the enthusiasm behind the work of art the film turned out to be. The Apostle is Duvall's magnum opus, both as an actor and as a filmmaker. His direction is so skilled that he doesn't appear to be telling the story – it's as if the story tells itself. And Duvall the actor embodies the title role with heart and soul. This apostle is skipping his way, righteously or not, through a very much spiritual existence. He is by no means a phoney. He lives his calling, all the while radiating reverence and bitterness, love and jealousy, altruism and selfishness. He is a human being consumed by religion. When he errs, he doesn't search his soul, he looks for God's plan with it all. If ever there was a film that could turn you religious, it's this one, although that's hardly Robert Duvall's intention. What The Apostle demonstrates, however, is the fervour and balance with which it was created. There's not an ounce of artificiality to be found here. And the narrative, such as it unfolds, like life itself, has a momentous timelessness to it.
The Apostle E.F.: "I may be on the devil's hit-list, but I'm on God's mailing list."