This paper is a study of Roberto Rossellini’s Francesco, giullare di Dio (The Flowers of St. Francis, 1950), Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), and Carl Dreyer’s Ordet (1955) through the theoretical lens of the religious figure of the holy fool. First, I assert that each film employs a foolish character in order to critique the contemporary culture, particularly resisting modern attempts to soften or ignore extreme elements of Christian teaching, such as sacrificial self-giving for others or the hope of bodily resurrection. Second, I argue that the content of a fool character affects the film’s form, creating a subversive style which in turn aims to produce a “conversion” or change in the viewer, making the film itself an instantiation of holy folly. A typology of the holy fool within the Christian tradition, its major features and functions, is first discussed followed by detailed analyses of each film.

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