Purgatory film posterMy dad used to like westerns. I considered them a sort of purgatory on television. But over the years, I’ve found I can enjoy a good one. I caught this tv movie earlier today and while the premise isn’t totally original, it got me thinking on two fronts. Briefly, an outlaw gang stumbles into an isolates settlement that at first seems welcoming and pacifist. But the pieces of the mystery of the town begin to settle into place. Hence the title of the film.

On earning salvation …

The residents of Refuge must refrain from temptation for ten years. Then they are whisked to heaven. One misstep and a silent guide takes them off to the opposite place. Is this earned grace?

It occurs to me that nearly everyone thinks people go to hell for doing bad things. Doesn’t it seem a continuation of such logic to think of heaven as a reward for doing good? Or at least for avoiding bad things. Are we culpable? Unworthy of any praise? how does unmerited grace inspire a person?

Two characters are discussing something along these lines. One sees the town as a “second chance.” His conversation partner, from the inside perspective, sees this purgatory as a “last chance.” There’s a mournfulness about the whole setting–and it’s not just the setting as a western or the musical score.

There is a church in the center of town, but it’s curious that while Refuge has a sheriff, it does not have a preacher. A view of the writer on organized religion?

On pacifism …

Like many movies on the subject, the policy to forego weapons is rescinded at the climax. Innocent people must be defended, and in the film’s resolution, this sacrifice of going to hell to protect the others is eventually rewarded. That bit of plotting was predictable. Just war plays out.

I don’t view a film like this as a theological treatise. I imagine myself in the setting and I wonder what my choices would be, were I in that purgative state. On that level, this movie works as a positive for me. The acting is competent. Music score good. Worth watching.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Purgatory

  1. Liam says:

    As a note: the premise of the movie is fundamentally different from the Catholic conception of a purgatorial, um, phase/state, of course. No chance of “failing” or being condemned to Hell – the particular Judgment having already occurred, as it were. (I am not going to try to address the different Eastern tradition commonly referred to as “toll houses”.)

  2. Melody says:

    Haven’t seen this one, though our family used to watch a lot of Westerns. I do remember one movie in which the setting was near the Purgatoire River. Of course the locals called it the “Picketwire”.

  3. Pingback: On The Tube Again: Purgatory | Catholic Sensibility

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