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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

First Reformed

by writer/director Paul Schrader

Although I had appreciated and written about movies with spiritual content (Transcendental Style in Film, published in 1972 and reissued this year), I never thought I would make one myself. I was far too intoxicated with action and empathy, sex and violence—items not found in the transcendental tool kit. When anyone would try to connect my film work with the book I'd written, I would protest, “No, no, that's not me.”

Then, three years ago, I presented a New York Society of Film Critics award to Paweł Pawlikowski, director of Ida (2013). We discussed spirituality in films and the new reality of filmmaking economics: technology was making it economically responsible to make serious films. Walking uptown afterwards, I thought, “It’s time. You’ll be seventy next year. It’s time for you to write that film you swore you would never write.” And First Reformed was set in motion.

Once I accepted the cloak the task was easy. The ideas and feelings had been germinating for fifty years. At times I wondered, “Why did you wait so long to do this?” But of course it had to take so long. There’s no other path. Good things happen while you wait.

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