HEART OF THE BEHOLDER

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 106 minutes
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People who view “Heart of the Beholder” are really going to want to think of this as some sort of fantasy. It’s an action oriented fantasy, all of which are just caricatures for our viewing pleasure?

Politics geared toward religion, political affiliations with the religious, religious groups trying to decide what’s best for us, crimes excused for the religious assailants, atheists who really don’t seek to bother anyone and are terrorized by believers just the same, double standards, and losing what you have to religious groups out for the better of America.

It’s not a fantasy when you view “Heart of the Beholder” in that respect. True, Tipton’s film takes place in 1980, but the film is a rather timely commentary on the sinister realities of the religious corrupting the lives of those who choose simply not to believe in religion. Hell, the producers of “Heart of the Beholder” are also suffering the fate of these two people continuously harassed and threatened and kept from distributing this film nationally.

I’m not strictly an anti-religion atheist, but to say I disagreed with what was depicted in “Heart of the Beholder” would be blatantly lying to you. Tipton and co. makes no excuses for depicting religion in all of its sinister facets, and the purpose of “Heart of the Beholder” is not just to show what damage religion inflicts, but it’s also a film geared to the atheist portion of America.

Call it propaganda, call it blatant pandering, but I can also call “Passion of the Christ” that, too, couldn’t I? “Heart of the Beholder” is not a poorly put together thriller intent on touting a message. It’s well acted, the production qualities are excellent, it’s funny, and there are very memorable walk-ons from Tony Todd, and Priscilla Barnes.

If you think any of what you see here is over the top, then you clearly have no idea the lengths of the stupidity religion allows. Religion incites fear and pain, and “Heart of the Beholder” is a sad and rather compelling tale of a couple who helped open up a successful video store chain in the eighties. Upon the release of “The Last Temptation of Christ” their lives were ruined by religious groups who sought out to force them to take the video off their shelves, or face constant tormenting by them.

What’s examined is the always underlying ability of religion of any kind to inspire forms of harassment and terrorism that always go brushed under the rug in America. Ken Tipton manages to compose this utterly excellent thriller that’s sold by wonderful performances by its cast.

Matt Letscher gives the stand out performance of the film as this man who simply just wants to get ahead in life through an honest business and pays the price when he refuses to back down to pressure on his business. The Christian mafia-like wave of violence and harassment that brushes over him and his family manages to change him into a man who simply wouldn’t let himself be bullied any longer. Letscher is powerful here, and Tipton pulls utterly excellent performances from everyone involved.

Why is “Heart of the Beholder” so worthy of its hype and controversy? Because it’s volatile; it’s a volatile film with depictions of occurrences that can happen to either of us. It can happen to you, it can happen to me simply for writing this review, and it continues to happen to folks who just want to live their lives, by folks who think they can decide for us. This is much more than an independent film, it’s an important statement.

It deserves to be seen by any and everyone be they religious or atheist.



Posted on June 5, 2007 in Reviews by
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