The Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2001
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Certain practices are recognized by the world's religions as markers of the spiritual life, and we are always heartened when we find evidence of them in today's movies. Our list of the year's best films includes examples of compassion, hope, kindness, transformation, and other practices. Quite a few give us fresh takes on that perennial favorite theme in films and spirituality love.
Here, then, is the best of 2001. Click on the title to read a full review.
The Ten Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2001
Shrek (DreamWorks) is a witty and heart-warming animated comedy about some lovable losers who prove that inner beauty is the true asset in a world where quick judgments all too often cause untold pain.
Our Song (IFC Films) is an extraordinary coming-of-age movie about three girls living in a poverty-stricken neighborhood whose daily wanderings and intimate dramas reveal their deep reserves of hope.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Warner Bros.) is a complex, elusive, spellbinding, and visionary film that tutors us in the spiritual practice of ensouling things through the exercise of our love and imagination.
A Beautiful Mind (Universal) tells the incredible story of a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician with schizophrenia who is able to live a relatively normal life thanks largely to the love of his devoted wife and his love for her.
Iris (Miramax) is a poignant portrait of the unconventional and very loving marriage of novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband, literary critic John Bayley, from their first encounter in the 1950s until her death of Alzheimer's disease in 1999.
Moulin Rouge (20th Century Fox) is an extravagant musical drama with stunning visuals that celebrates l'amour as an emotion that is at once transcendent and transforming.
K-PAX (Universal) is a spirited sci-fi drama with the message that we can all be medicine for one another if we only have eyes to see how.
The Shipping News (Miramax) celebrates the importance of love, place, and community in the spiritual transformation of a weak-willed man with no self-confidence into a fully rounded human being.
Life as a House (New Line) is a soulful drama about the courage and persistence of a very alienated middle-aged man to give birth to himself in the world before leaving it.
Ghost World (MGM) presents a witty look at an adolescent rebel's attempts to be an authentic person in the present day bogus culture of trivial pursuits.
The Ten Most Spiritually Literate Foreign Language Films of 2001
Baran (Miramax) is a soul-stirring Iranian film about a quick tempered youth who shows compassion for an Afghan refugee, revealing the alchemical process whereby a perceived enemy can be transformed into a person who is loved.
Amelie (Miramax) is an immensely entertaining French film about an imaginative young woman who has a wonderful capacity for doing acts of kindness.
Innocence (Fireworks) is a beguiling Australian film about the tender romance between two elderly individuals who remind us that each stage of life has its own kind of love.
Italian for Beginners (Miramax) is a Danish romantic comedy that provides an anatomy of the shades of loneliness and the universal yearning for love.
Under the Sun (Shadow Distribution) is an enchanting Swedish film about the unusual love affair of a tongue-tied farmer with great nurturing skills and his strikingly beautiful housekeeper.
Eureka (Shooting Gallery), which is described by its Japanese director as "a prayer for modern people searching for the courage to go on," follows the healing journey of three survivors of a murderous attack on a municipal bus.
Together (IFC Films) is a wonderfully idiosyncratic and totally satisfying Swedish film set in a 1975 commune in Stockholm where openness to others slowly evolves as a spiritual practice.
No Man's Land (United Artists) is a Bosnian film that vividly and unforgettably conveys the insanity of war and the dreadful things it does to all who drench themselves in hate and violence.
Behind the Sun (Miramax), a Brazilian-French-Swiss co-production, is a stark and primal drama about the valiant efforts of a young boy to stop the senseless cycle of feud violence that has torn his family apart.
Himalaya (Kino International) is a beautiful and thematically rich Nepalese film about the many lessons learned by some high-mountain villagers during their annual yak caravan.
The Most Spiritually Literate Documentaries of 2001
Jung (War) in the Land of the Mujaheddin (Karousel Films) is an Italian documentary that elicits our compassion with its unrelenting presentation of the suffering of the Afghan people during 25 years of war.
Startup.com (Artisan) is an informative and inventive documentary that looks at the rise-and-fall of an Internet company through the less-than-thankful eyes of its founders.
Butterfly (Doug Wolens) tells the inspiring story of an ecological crusader who demonstrates the importance of taking a very visible stand to save our forests.
Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale (IFC Films) is an extraordinary documentary about an unusual elder whose questing spirit is a marvel to behold.
The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (Cowboy Pictures) is an engaging documentary about the bone-chilling struggle for survival of an English explorer and his crew of 27 men in the disastrous 1914 Antarctic expedition.
Ten More Spiritually Literate Films
Mulholland Drive (Universal Focus) is a phantasmagorical David Lynch extravaganza set in Hollywood about role-playing, desire, power, and mystery.
Lantana (Lion's Gate), a richly nuanced psychological drama, circles around the complicated subject of love and offers ample insights into the sources of emotional illiteracy.
Last Orders (Sony Pictures Classics) is a sterling drama about four Englishmen who make a pilgrimage with the ashes of their departed buddy.
The Royal Tenenbaums (Touchstone) revolves around a prankster father who wants to reconnect with his children and former wife.
L.I.E. (Lot 47 Films) is a daring drama about a poetic and vulnerable teen who is nurtured by someone most of us would consider to be abominable.
In the Bedroom (Miramax) is a daring and unsettling film about a few of the complex and taboo emotions of grief.
Waking Life (Fox Searchlight) is a visionary animated film of deep play that is stylistically innovative and spiritually rich in content.
Diamond Men (Panarama Entertainment) probes the mutual benefits for two salesmen when they choose to go with the flow of their unlikely friendship.
Monster's Ball (Lion's Gate) is a strangely entrancing drama about the redemptive power of love in the life of a Southern racist corrections officer who is imprisoned in anger and hatred.
My First Mister (Paramount Classics) salutes the transforming power of friendship to release us from fear, expand our hearts, and open us to the redemptive capacities of love.