It was only a year or so ago that I found myself reaching yet another crossroads in my faith journey. After having attended seminary and grown in ministry within my Anabaptist denomination, I found myself disillusioned by not just belief systems but how those belief systems were being lived out within the life of the denomination.
The more I grew in leadership, the more it bothered me.
So, I turned in my ministry license and moved away from a ministry path that I I found conflicting even as I loved the many people I'd gotten to know over the years.
I thought about this faith journey often while watching Steven Adam Renkovish's meditative and thought-provoking short film A Beautiful Silence, a film that he professes was at least partially borne out of his own disillusionment with the church and the legalism contained within. What A Beautiful Silence projects so beautifully is that divine awkwardness found between faith and doubt, an awkwardness that longs for authenticity yet reaches and too often finds artificial expressions of the divine experience.
While it may sound like A Beautiful Silence is a faith-based film, it is not a faith-based film. While it may very well resonate most deeply with progressive Christians, I'd also dare say that those who've led a more disciplined spiritual life will identify with the doubts and fears and anxieties expressed by Brittany Renee Smith in the film. Smith, who also co-wrote the film, gives a relaxed, natural performance that feels less like performance and more like we've become observers to a journey deep within her soul.
While some who've praised A Beautiful Silence have mentioned Malick and Von Trier, I found myself contemplating the works of Van Sant, especially films such as Gerry and the recent The Sea of Trees, the latter being a film a good majority of the world seemed to hate yet I adored.
A Beautiful Silence is a refreshingly honest film, not entirely devoid of hope yet also refusing to create a false sense of hope for the sake of somehow honoring the faith journey. The film has already been an official selection at over a dozen indie film fests, while it Renkovish picked up the prize for Best Director at the Franklin County International Film Festival. The film has also been nominated for prizes at the Blackbird Film Fest and Smoky Mountain Film Festival.
Filmed in and around Greenville, South Carolina, A Beautiful Silence captures the simple beauty of the surroundings yet also captures the wounded soul of a young woman struggling with God, faith, meaning and the world around her. It's an experience that is likely familiar to many persons of faith, yet an experience not often portrayed with such honesty on the big screen.
A Beautiful Silence doesn't project easy answers. Indeed, that appears to be an intentional choice as the journey itself isn't easy and the answers you may discover will be uniquely your own. If there's a divine purpose behind A Beautiful Silence, it's the realization, perhaps, that we are not alone in our faith and we are not alone in our doubts and wherever we go there's at least a sliver of hope that we can discover somewhere, someway within that beautiful silence.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic