Robert Duvall's 1997 film, The Apostle, provides a remarkable portrait of a charismatic minister with problems. The Apostle E.F., first known as "Sonny" (played by Duvall), has charismatic gifts and sometimes an uncontrollable temper. The viewer is challenged to make sense of the conflicting character elements. During the course of the film, the Apostle E.F. kills an adulterous rival and physically assaults some who would stand in his way. Yet this is not a simple moral warning about a preacher's righteous public façade versus the sordid character of his private life, as in Elmer Gantry. Rather it reveals a troubled in development, one who is both significantly flawed but also becomes committed to a sense of his own calling. How is the viewer to reconcile these apparently discordant characteristics of the Apostle E.F.?
What makes this film so textured and complex is the interplay between psychiatric disorders and religious claims. The interface of psychiatry and religion in this film is displayed in three ways:
1. In the psychiatric disorder the Apostle E.F. displays in his ministry;
2. In questions regarding the legitimacy of his claim to apostleship; and
3. In his being healed by his congregation.
I will provide in this essay an examination of these interfaces and a psychiatric template that will offer a plausible framework for understanding the Apostle E. F.'s actions.
"The Apostle: A Psychiatric Appraisal,"
Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 3
, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol3/iss2/6