Features and Columns · Movies

The Decade-Defining Darkness of ‘First Reformed’

Here’s a video essay on why the pride and despair of Paul Schrader’s film defines the latent darkness of the 2010s.
First Reformed darkness
By  · Published on January 18th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about why the darkness of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed defined the 2010s.

Everyone’s idea of a comfort food movie is different. For some folks, there’s nothing more soothing than a low-stakes romantic comedy. For others, happiness is a gory slasher. In the end, genre doesn’t define a comfort food movie, comfort does. That warm, curative feeling that everything’s going to be alright, if only for ninety minutes.

Asking what an anti-comfort food film looks like feels like a cruel thing to do after a decidedly cruel year like 2020. But curiosity compels me. A significant ingredient of comfort food movies is that they feel familiar. So it stands to reason that anti-comfort food films would challenge us. That they would offer a crisis rather than a back rub.

Paul Schrader‘s First Reformed is a film about — and which inspires — crisis. It tells of a lonely minister (Ethan Hawke) who descends into despair after confronting the seemingly inevitable reality that humans have doomed the planet to environmental catastrophe. His obsession with the destruction of the world steadily snowballs into an obsession with destruction itself. And soon the priest finds himself consumed by an arrogant and ultimately suffocating lack of hope.

Much like the author of the video essay below, First Reformed hit me like a ton of bricks. Its paranoia, panic, and furious vision of despondency did not leave me for a long time. I cannot think of a film that more pointedly articulates the painful shift of the Information Age. We have (often terrifying) knowledge at our fingertips. What we do with it is another matter altogether.

Watch “The Darkness of First Reformed“:

Who made this?

Karsten Runquist is a Chicago-based video essayist. You can check out Runquist’s back catalog and subscribe to his channel on YouTube here. You can follow Runquist on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).