Martin Scorsese is a master of finding the sacred in the secular. One of the most well-known filmmakers of the last century, his career spans 54 years and nearly as many awards and nominations.
He is a man admittedly obsessed with religion and finding the deeper meaning behind even the most violence-infused story. Growing up in a devout Catholic family in Queens, New York, he was an altar boy who developed a love of filmmaking and storytelling from a young age.
Initially studying to become a priest, he flunked out in his first year. But this paved the way for his first several films—in particular the gang-based Mean Streets, which alludes to Jesus’ temptation in the desert in a modern New York City setting.
Through this the public were introduced to Scorsese’s internal wrestle with the idea that spiritual people are also capable of evil things—something he witnessed first-hand as a child on the streets of New York.
“You see the tragedy of the people destroyed by it all,” Scorsese told Relevant magazine. “People say, ‘Semi-gangsters, who cares?’ Gamblers, hookers [sic]…the tragedy, the depth of every single person matters.”
Once referring to himself as a “lapsed Catholic”, his life has been as colourful as some of the films he has produced, including a cocaine addiction during the ‘70s. It was only after ending up in hospital at the age of 35 that he began to turn back to God.
Where do I go to find the meaning of life?For me, it’s Christianity.
“I prayed. But if I prayed, it was just to get through those 10 days and nights. I felt [if I was saved] it was for some reason. And even if it wasn’t for a reason, I had to make good use of it,” he said to Hollywood Reporter.
Faith is no longer about religion for Scorsese, it is about making the choice to wrestle with the things of God—often through a visual medium.
“The vehicle that one takes towards faith can be very helpful…but ultimately it has to be yourself, and you have to find it. You have to find that faith, or you have to find a relationship with Jesus with yourself,” he told America magazine.
At the age of 75, Martin Scorsese still has plenty of stories merging the sacred and secular in him. Will they be confronting? Undoubtedly. But they will almost certainly point back to the redemption Scorsese has found through his reignited relationship with God.
“Where do I go to find the meaning of existence and the meaning of life? For me, it’s Christianity,” he said to Relevant magazine. “That’s the real saving grace of our world.”