“Quid est veritas?” The question posed by Pilate during the trial of Jesus Christ is one that has lasted until today, and it is an accurate depiction of modern man’s tendency to wrestle with the truth. In “Risen,” Pilate serves as a symbol of our age, for he has a cold cynicism that is not able to see truth, even when it is standing in front of him.
In “Risen,” one man’s struggle with deciphering the truth causes conflict, when what he believes to be true is challenged by the person of Christ. The audience is confronted with this stage when watching the 2016 film, which depicts Christ’s crucifixion from the perspective of a Roman tribune named Clavius.
Clavius is tasked by Pilate to investigate the disappearance of Christ’s body from his tomb following his Resurrection. While he is at first skeptical of the few eyewitnesses, Clavius is deeply challenged by something he believes to be impossible.
As the film progresses, Clavius begins to doubt his own identity, that of a Roman tribune and a pagan. Clavius desires a peaceful existence – one which he realizes he cannot obtain if he remains on his bloody path.
The mystery of what he has been confronted with overwhelms Clavius, who experiences an internal conflict throughout the course of the film that touches all aspects of his character: his job and his religious beliefs, all the way up to his very identity as a human being.
The movie ends on an uncertain note: has Clavius accepted the Jewish messiah? Or, unable to accept the consequences of such a belief, hass he remained a skeptic?
“Risen” takes a unique perspective. It brings a different view of history when it comes to the Apostles and to Christ Himself. Unlike films such as the “Passion of the Christ,” which depicts Jesus’s death in a dramatic and earth shattering way, “Risen” shows the crucifixion of Christ as another mundane yet gruesome task for the Romans to carry out.
The soldiers who are tasked with crucifying Jesus and the two thieves take no pleasure in their job, and they make a great effort to leave the scene as quickly as possible, once the three condemned have been executed.
Additionally, the character of Jesus is hidden in the movie, playing a role which subtly animates Clavius to seek the truth. Clavius mostly interacts with the apostles, who help him understand the nature of Christ.
In particular, Peter has a crucial role within the group of the disciples, often conversing with Christ alone when He does appear on screen, symbolizing his role as a major leader of the first Christian communities.
As students of the University of Dallas, Clavius’ journey serves as an archetype for us, both as Christians and as truth seekers. While Pilate and the Jewish high priests try to bury all traces of Christ and his body’s disappearance, Clavius quite literally leaves no stone unturned in his determination to discover the truth. Yet as the evidence in favor of Christ’s resurrection begins to pile up, Clavius encounters the challenge of faith, as many of his questions about Christ are left unanswered.
There are many issues and debates over questions of religion and the human experience that we, as students, walk away from with confusion and apprehension, leading to more questions than answers. Clavius’s motivation to seek the truth can serve as a reminder of our own struggles.
The greatest triumph of “Risen” is that it challenges the tendency of Christian apologetics to view faith and reason as equal partners in understanding reality. While reason is not opposed to faith by any means, faith goes beyond reason in acknowledging the miraculous aspects of Christ. While the divinity of Christ cannot be proven by reason alone, it is not incompatible with reason either. In attempting to answer what is true, Clavius is a challenge to the modern mind’s cynicism.