09. Johnny Got His Gun (1971)
Christ (played by Donald Sutherland)
A whole new generation was traumatized by Dalton Trumbo’s 1971 anti-war film (based on his 1938 anti-war novel) about a young soldier who loses his limbs, sight, hearing, and voice in battle when Metallica used clips from Johnny Got His Gun for “One”. But some of the scenes that weren’t featured in that music video might actually be even more claustrophobic and disheartening. Chief among those are a series of dream conversations that the injured soldier, Joe (Timothy Bottoms), has with a sweet but increasingly useless Christ (Sutherland).
There’s an almost Bergman-esque level of existential despair that emerges in Joe’s interactions with the savior-like figure, who knows and openly admits that’s he’s merely a figment of the soldier’s imagination. Joe tries to explain his fate and the extent of his suffering to Christ while they play cards together – or while he watches the carpenter build a collection of crosses – but Christ can do little more than offer a sympathetic, if confused ear. He is as unknowing as Death from The Seventh Seal and as broken in the face of the impotence of faith as the priest in Cries and Whispers. Played with subtle fragility by Sutherland, Christ becomes the most unsettling part of a film that’s not short on moments capable of haunting viewers for years to come. –Sarah Kurchak