In addition to discussing the film and spotting faith elements in the film MASS, Kenny and Mike also had a meaningful zoom interview with writer, director Fran Kranz and one of the four co-stars, Ann Dowd. The audio is included in the episode. MASS...
In addition to discussing the film and spotting faith elements in the film MASS, Kenny and Mike also had a meaningful zoom interview with writer, director Fran Kranz and one of the four co-stars, Ann Dowd. The audio is included in the episode.
MASS is a fictional the story a meeting between two sets of parents involved in a school shooting, the parents of the shooter and the parents of one of victims. Reed Birney, Jason Issacs, and Martha Plimpton join Ann Dowd in rounding out the stellar cast.
All aspects of this difficult but important film excel, a well-crafted story, subtle direction and outstanding individual as well as ensemble performances.
Faith Elements Spotted:
Grief, forgiveness, and reconciliation are vital to experiencing new life following loss, injury, and even tragedy.
The definition of Mass as the liturgy, "the work of the people," for the Eucharist.
The Place of the Church, the Body of Christ in facilitating that process.
Interview with Mass Director Fran Kranz and Actress Ann Dowd
Mike: So, so here we go. This is our interview with director Fran Kranz and Ann Dowd here on Faithspotting
Kenny: Ann Dowd and Fran Kranz, Thank you for joining us on Faithspotting. I wanted to ask you Fran off the bat. I know I've heard interviews that obviously there is a spiritual component to this film and that was sort of inherent in it, but I don't consider necessarily a faith-based film. You weren't trying to make a faith-based film. I wouldn't think no.
Fran: Recognizing that it takes place in a church and and there's even a large crucifix on the wall of the parish hall. I don't see it that way. I don't see it as a religious film. But what I want, what I really want is for people to ask about their own relationship with spirituality, uh forgiveness, reconciliation. These are themes that I I think I think the spiritual themes, I think they exist in a sort of spiritual realm, and I thought it would be it was necessary that the movie take place somewhere and and some kind of house of worship.
Fran: I was raised catholic, so that that's my background, that's what I was familiar with that. Had I been Jewish, it might have been in a temple and so on. I did not think it should be in a private home or a community center because the themes of life and death, grief, loss, the search for meaning which these characters are actively searching for understanding and meaning, these are spiritual things and and each of the characters have a different relationship with spirituality or God, it's not directly spoken about, but you can sort of sense it, I hope and what I want to draw out of audiences is for them to ask these questions themselves. You know.
Kenny: I think you can very much draw it out and I understand sort of in the context of spirituality and the universal sense, but that said, I think this film, your film, presents faith from a Christian perspective in the most honest presentation of the process of faith and that's something that we typically don't see very often. We think faith is, I believe this or I believe that, but in a Christian context, it is very much a process, it typically just doesn't happen and when you look at the lessons and the teachings of Christ those are lessons and teachings and truths, that we sort of have to work into and we have to give ourselves completely. And this story both in terms of uh certainly Ann and the =other actors, and you is giving yourself, and it requires the audience to give of themselves completely. So for me it really is, presents faith from the Christian perspective in an as honest a way that that I've seen. And so I certainly appreciate that.
Kenny: Can I ask you just the name Mass, where did that? I mean obviously mass shootings, but how did you come up with the name “Mass?
Fran: you know, first, just real quick. I love that notion of faith as a process and you know, the characters are making an effort, you know, they're making an effort to heal, potentially forgive, they don't know how they're going to get there. I don't know if they're going to be successful, but they get into this room together to make the effort. It's such a beautiful, extraordinary thing. And that's what I don't know what my point is, but I just love how you sort of, I've never really thought of faith that way. And it's sort of beautiful and sort of all that matters is that these people are trying, they're going to go through this process, but they don't know what it's going to give and they have their doubts about it, right? But there's something so extraordinary and admirable about that and which I wanted to sort of celebrate or shine a light on in the movie.
Fran: But look from “Mass” for me, it mostly means my sort of, my definition is a secular one in the sense that it's just the gathering of bodies, this sort of assembling of bodies people coming together because that it speaks to the power of human connection and the need for human connection, our need for one another. And and finding through shared suffering some deeper connection in some reconciliation. You know, that that's absolutely where, that's sort of the journey that these characters, I think, go on. I welcome the religious component for the reasons I was talking about earlier. Spirituality permeates the film and I want people, I think I think having a relation having some kind of spirituality is important and and healthy and necessary relationship with the unknown, and sort of the mysteries of things.
Fran: And but I also don't want to shy away from the sort of mass shooting reference, and because actually I want to be direct about it, I want to I worry there's not that kind of change we we all wish we could see. So maybe we have to change our thinking about it, we have to change our mode of thinking. And so I would love nothing more than for this movie to come into people's minds when these things happen. And to sort of think about the personal, think about the lives that suffer and then they have to endure with this pain and and maybe that can change our efforts and maybe that it will change the way we pay attention to these things.
Kenny: Absolutely. The other thing that struck me. So mass in a Christian context is the liturgy of the Eucharist, Catholic Mass, Episcopal Mass, we don't call it that in Methodism, but it's in the liturgy, when the Eucharist is present, its Mass. But liturgy means literally, “work of the people.” So again, the characters working together and working individually in a process that they don't know how it's gonna go, really is the ultimate expression of faith in a Christian sense,
Fran: Wow. I'm going to steal that. That's great.
Ann: I have a question, may I?
Kenny: Sure, please.
Ann: You have referenced “in a Christian setting” a few times. How do you think it would have gone in a temple or a mosque? Is the process of forgiveness different depending on one's religion?
Kenny: Yeah, I think so (that it is similar). I say that because it's my experience that, again, as France said, every faith tradition has, I think, that redemption and that forgiveness component. How they would would experience that, or what verbiage, or where in their tradition it would fit in, I'm not sure because I don't know, I guess, the ins and outs of the other traditions, but but I do think because it is a genuine sense of seeking redemption and forgiveness, I think that commonality, regardless of the specific faith, would uh it would ring true to that. I'm just speaking from the Christian tradition, and I wouldn't want to speak for the others, but I have no doubt. I think they have that inclusion.
Ann: I think something that happens in this film is the awareness that human beings regardless, of all the names and places we attached to them are seeking the same thing. Yes. Which in it of itself does not matter just being able to drop and connect with one another. Uh, and God's presence in that however one experiences God is universal. I find so moving about this is uh, we're all here we, it doesn't matter.
Mike: I was going to throw a couple of things out for Ann and Fran. I'm going to get lighthearted, but then I'm going to take a super sharp right here in just a second. I gotta be Fanboy for about 10 seconds. One of my favorites, because I'm a closet horror movie addict, which is weird because here we are talking about Christianity. Oh my gosh, Fran, Cabin in the woods. I don't care if it was 10 years ago, one of my favorite horror movies of all time. I just got to get that out of the way buddy. It's the greatest man. I know,
Fran: Thank you.
Mike: It is so amazing and you are my favorite character. Thank you for so much Entertainment. My daughter is older now. I showed it to her. She adored it. So it will be something that will be passed on like fine jewelry from generation to generation.
Fran: Thank her as well.
Mike: Ann Hereditary. Another favorite. Oh my gosh,
Ann: I had to watch it with one eye, was like this the whole time.
Mike: Of course I absolutely, absolutely.
Fran: The best horror films in memory. Yeah, Hereditary. So amazing.
Mike: I love the resurgence. Yeah, Cabin is funny. Yeah. Cabin is more wit than anything else. You know, it's more, smart. I mean not that Hereditary is not smart, don't get me wrong, but it is dark. I mean dark. So taking that hard, right. I don't know if you were aware, just just particular timing. I'd say about an hour ago there was a mass shooting here in Dallas today. Today, this morning. I was telling my kids about it basically what we do every Friday. It's a long story why we don't have regular week this week, but we have a newscast that we do. So all of my news, kids were gathered around watching video of what was going on, fingers crossed, all I've heard is that four kids were injured and I believe that's the worst of it.
Mike: But I just couldn't believe the timing because I watched your movie last night Fran and, and obviously you too Ann, I was talking to the kids about it. If there's any sort of silver lining, what I loved about the movie is, it opens up conversations, it's something that I take an enormous amount of responsibility with my kids that I have, that I'm a teacher for, to support them and love them and recognize them. I, I guess what I'm saying for really both of you, and I'm gonna kind of bounce back and forth with both of you is for you on your side Fran, Where did this come from this story? I mean, it was just a beautiful story. Ann, on your side and with with what you did, the scene that you had at the end, I'm calling it the hit me seen, oh my goodness, it was so powerful, so beautiful. And I want to know from you, where did you dig in yourself to find that? I'm always fascinated with moviemakers, writers. It comes from a place that a lot of us don't know between you two. Where how would you answer those two questions?
Fran: I don't know how capable I am of forgiveness at times. And and under these circumstances, under an unimaginable circumstances, terribly different, difficult circumstances. I don't know what I'm capable of and it scares me. I it troubles me. I think about it a lot. I I thought about it when I learned about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, when I was in college, in South Africa. I didn't know if I could do that. I have a daughter now. And when the in the wake of these shootings, (there was a school shooting in the Dallas area when we recorded the interview) like what just happened, and my heart sank when they told me about it. I have to confront those feelings and fears. And so this movie is really me working through these questions of can I forgive, can you move forward? How do you heal? How do you reconcile these were all things I don't, I don't know how to do.
Fran: And so I've had these four characters when I came across these meetings, I had that dynamic, the father and mother of a shooter, the father and mother of a victim. I tried to place myself in their shoes and write it out like a multiple personality disorder, crazy, you know, just just write it all out because I, I didn't believe they were good or bad people here. I believe there were complex humans who who may have made tragic mistakes but out of, out of love, that's mostly what I found in the research that just the mess, the mess and the difficulty of being a parent, and loving and yet losing, you know. Um, so I just tried to struggle struggle through that, you know, and write it so that it's so much of it is sort of a personal exploration, you know.
Ann: I think it's probably true for all of us in our are various choices in life in terms of the work we do. But when the text, when the script is written with the beauty and truth of this script that Fran has created and the characters are clear. Um then that's a joyful process for an actor, it can be very scary, meaning can I do it. Uh, and there's a lot of things that go into it. I would say the fact that we trusted one another that in the two days of rehearsal and a half, we came to trust and respect one another. We knew we were in a safe space that opens the sky, clouds go and there is hope and the sunshine, sorry for the kind of vapid metaphor there uh to a teacher no less. Uh so so then you do, you you know your personal work, don't you? You see where the story connects, you find what you understand what you have questions about you let it settle, you listen in the silence, you listen for the voice of Linda that will come and it really is from so many, speaking of spiritual, it's that kind of process, it's from the non-physical world, all the assistance, the help, the understanding of what this woman is going through, the great gift of that. Um and I just have really profound gratitude for that experience and what it taught me about vulnerability and the notion that there was always a way forward in spite of even in the most unimaginable circumstance
Kenny: and that's going to teach others. That's what I'm saying when I try to get churches to show this film as a way to deepen your, ones discipleship. And Fran, the pastor in me just has to reach out. I know that struggle of wondering whether you can forgive, but your film shows that way, you don't have to have the pressure of, all of a sudden forgiving completely and having that instantaneous. It is a process. It is work. It may come in a conversation like in the film, it may come in weeks or months. But it is that work in that process.
Fran: Thank you. Thank you. That means a lot to hear. That's lovely. Thank you. Thank you.
Kenny: Thank you, Lastly. Bless Be The ties that Bind, the music. Perfect. Perfect. And the way you carry that off at the end. Chill bumps. I don't cry much at movies, but you got some tears flowing there because that's the way church should be. So. Thank you for that gift. Thank you both.
Fran and Ann: Bye.
Actor, Writer, Director
Fran Kranz is an American actor, writer, and director. Fran has acted in film, television and on Broadway. He is best known for his roles in the science fiction drama series Dollhouse as well as in The Cabin in the Words and Much Ado About Nothing. Fran's Broadway credits include Bernard in Death of a Salesman (2012) and You Can't Take it With You (2014). Fran graduated from Yale University in 2004 where he was a member of the improv comdedy group The Exit Player.
Fran wrote and directed MASS which is his first feature film to direct.
Born in Holyoke MA, Ann Dowd is an acclaimed actress working in film, television as well as the stage. Among her many acclaims Ann won a prime-time Emmy for her performance in The Handmaid's Tale. Ann's filmography is long and distinguished including parts in Lorenzo's Oil, Phildelphia, The Manchurian Candidate, and Hereditary. In addition to her Emmy winning performance as Aunt Lydia Clements in The Handmaid's tale, Ann has appeaed in Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, True Detective, The Leftovers, and House among many others, and is considered one of the most talented and multi-facited actors working. Dowd and her husband, Lawrence "Larry" Arancio both coach acting and are frequent collaborators. Ann graduated from Holy Cross and received an MFA from DePaul University.