I can still feel my eyebrows raising when I first heard the title of Paul Schrader’s new film: First Reformed.
Having grown up in the same Reformed circles as Schrader, where he is now considered something of a prodigal son, I knew this tale of a pastor (Ethan Hawke) struggling to hold onto his faith would hit home. What I didn’t know was that First Reformed would be among the best films of the year so far, and worthy of mention alongside spiritual-crisis classics like Diary of a Country Priest and Ordet.
Earlier this month, I had a chance to interview Schrader alongside Filmspotting co-host Adam Kempenaar. It was a wide-ranging conversation that covered the ways European art films like Priest and Ordet influenced him; his collaborations with Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ); the “proselytizing urge” he’s had since childhood; and why he now considers Hardcore—his early directorial effort about a religiously conservative father whose daughter gets caught up in the porn industry—to be “a piece of juvenilia . . . kind of a young man’s FU to his father and his church.”
As for First Reformed, he describes it as the film “I swore to myself I’d never write.” Take a listen: