Man of God - Movie Review

As with all movies on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete synopsis of the movie, but rather to document how the movie relates to the meaning of life. With that said, be forewarned, there are still spoilers ahead.

Man of God was released in 2005, written and directed by Jefery Levy. The movie is about a Rabbi struggling to come to terms with reality, and all the nonsensical misery, sorrow, and unforgiving disappointments life brings. Although it was created in 2005, the cinematography and editing give a surreal 1970s feel. It was hard to tell if this was on purpose, or if it was just low budget. Probably low budget. In any case, it actually kind of added to the intrigue.

The bulk of the film is comprised of conversations between the Rabbi, and those around him scuffling with ideas of God and faith. The Rabbi, superbly played by Peter Weller, confesses to a woman, Zane, with which he had extramarital affairs, that his issue is nothing. Or rather, it is not that nothing is wrong, it is that nothing is what is wrong. A classic case of the Willy-Nilly Nihilisms. His faith in God is shattered, yet others rely on him for their faith. The Rabbi and Zane have the following conversation:

Rabbi: Yeah like I said, nothing is wrong. I mean I was sitting here before thinking about... I mean haven't you ever just sat and thought that there was something, but there wasn't?

Zane: Nothing

Rabbi: Yes, nothing.

Zane: Rabbi we are not nothing.

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Zane: I don't believe in God. If everything is nothing, it doesn't matter anyway.

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Zane: Maybe God is real, maybe not. We won't know until we're dead. Right now we're alive.

Zane here is attempting to come to terms with the fact that the Rabbi doesn't romantically love her. Yes, they slept together, and his wife is in a comma, but beyond friendship-love, there is nothing there. In fact, there is nothing anywhere, no purpose to anything really.

A bit later, the Rabbi has the burdensome task of consoling a guy named Ben Cohen and his wife, Karen Cohen. Ben no longer believes in God, while Karen's faith remains strong. Karen was raped, and her baby was killed by a street gang, while Ben stood, watched, and did nothing... frozen in fear. The Rabbi goes on to tell Karen and Ben that nature will run its course, and it may not always be right or just, it just is. Terrible things happen, and they are what they are. All we can do is to throw our hats in the air and have faith. He also tells the tale of Moses and the 50 gates of understanding, which is about probing existential questions that are relevant to our character and our heart.

Not understanding what the heck the Rabbi is talking about, and still feeling the existential jaws of nihilism, Ben ask the Rabbi the following:

Ben: Why go on? Why care, why live? What's the point?

Rabbi: The point is, is that you have a responsibility to live Ben. You have a responsibility to be. That is the first and simplest thing asked of us, to be.

Karen goes home, and Ben reluctantly stays to talk with the Rabbi one on one. In the conversation, the Rabbi talks about how he is more scared of living than he is of dying. He states to Ben:

Rabbi: ...when she got sick (the Rabbi's wife), my life was over, and I did not fear death anymore. And I had not one, one, single reason to go on living. But I found one. I found one reason, other people. And that's all I got now Ben and now I'm schlepping these monkeys, and these hookers, and these drug addicts off the street, and I don't know if I'm doing anything. I feel fucking useless doing it. But I've gotten something out of it and the thing I've gotten out of it is that, anybody who's got a why to live can bear up under any how (a variant of a Friedrich Nietzsche quote). And all these fools I'm dragging in off the street, if I'm doing anything, are my why's.

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Rabbi: The one thing I don't know is what the hell else to do with my life. Because just like you, I'm wandering around trying to search for some meaning and that's why I'm wandering around here trying to help you find some kind of something in your life and thus mine.

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Rabbi: Ben, there is no meaning in rape and murder and catastrophe and violence. And you are never gonna find any meaning in it. You are never gonna find meaning in it. The solution is in the solution. Only thing you are ever gonna find meaning in, is how to live your own life with your God-given intelligence and your God-given courage and your God-given faith.

So as we see, the Rabbi finds meaning in helping others find meaning. Ben leaves, and then Ben dies. The Rabbi's world continues to unravel along with his purpose and thus his faith. He'd later go on to plead with God to take away his free will and to force him to the right path. God does not answer and he returns to his Nihilistic thoughts. He feels his life is meaningless, so he does something he thinks will give it meaning—he kills four gang members and returns to the synagogue to provide one last sermon. Wounded, both physically and morally, he tells everyone it is all bullshit. Love is not truth, religion is not truth, change is not the truth, and faith is certainly not truth—they all have no purpose. God's joke to us is that we already know all of this, we already know we are destitute and alone. But we are too scared to admit it. So what is the Rabbi's truth? Well, he doesn't get to finish the sermon as one of the gang members in the audience kills him. But to get to the truth, he encourages people to go kill someone. Only then can we overcome our fear and see how pointless it all is. The Rabbi was consumed by Nihilism, the dark and meaningless void as he would call it. But right before he is shot, he experiences a rapture and states... he only wants to love.

The film was profoundly philosophical, well acted, and dark. It was also poorly edited and had poor cinematography. In addition, a few parts didn't make much sense outside of the dialogue scenes. As such, below is the rating:

Overall - 6 Meaning of Life Relevance - 8 Uniqueness – 7

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