In ‘The Blind Christ,’ faith is more important than miracles

The story of Christ has been told for generations. Putting a fresh spin on a centuries old tale like that is no easy task, but “The Blind Christ,” a Chilean drama that’s as much a poem as it is a movie, makes a mesmerizing effort. It’s not always successful, there are a number of moments that fall flat. Underneath it all, though, the movie has an undeniable power.

The story is simple: Michael (Michael Silva) found God in the desert when he was a child. To mark his awakening, he asks his friend Mauricio (Mauricio Pinto) to nail his hands to a tree. He bears the scars years later when, convinced that he is Christ or at least a vessel for godhood, he hears that that Mauricio is ailing somewhere deep in Pampa del Tamarugal, a large plain of Northern Chile.

Like Christ, he walks across the desert barefoot and talks to people along the way. What sets “The Blind Christ” apart is its willingness to put Michael in the background. After all, Christ was lifted by the people, many of whom were downtrodden thieves, murderers, and prostitutes. Michael keeps the same company and focuses on them rather than his purported divinity. The movie is at its most powerful when it observes how faithfully the people of Pampa del Tamarugal open up to him, hoping that he can end their pain.

For “The Blind Christ,” this humanist approach is a double-edged sword: Michael is a special man who brings faith more than results. He is not Jesus, no matter what he thinks. He is a harbinger. His humanity is more a part of him than his conviction and, in the end, it gets the best of him. He talks to God and God does not talk back, so he ceases talking. I’ll admit, even in a movie is grounded as this, his last minute loss of faith was shocking. I was convinced he would pull through and prove his awakening. Ultimately, he chooses people over Christhood.

Jesus encountered such obstacles, but he continued being the son of God, performing miracles wherever he went, and dying all the same. Michael cannot perform such miracles, much to his chagrin. Here is where the movie finds its power: what if Jesus gave up and built a life and family instead? To put it lightly, the world would be different. For Michael, it stays exactly how it’s been, filled with people looking for a respite from the suffering. He could not be that respite, but he offered faith that one day there would be. “The Blind Christ” shows that, sometimes, that is enough.