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Simon of the Desert

Simon of the Desert(1965)

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Simon, a bearded ascetic, has withdrawn from the world in order to commune with God from atop a pillar in the desert. After 6 years, 6 months, and 6 days of prayer and physical deprivation, he is rewarded with a taller pillar by a powerful and wealthy family. Simon dismisses the solicitude of his mother, who lives in a shack in the desert to be near him, declares himself unworthy of the honor of the priesthood which his bishop wants to bestow upon him, and mounts his new pillar to continue his prayers in penance for all humanity. By prayer he restores the severed hands of a thief who has been unable to work as a result of his punishment, but the miracle is accepted with total indifference. Existing on a small number of lettuce leaves brought to him by an order of priests who see to his care, Simon steadfastly refuses to succumb to the world's evils. He sends an adolescent lay brother away from the order because the youth's pleasure in the priest's life is not of a spiritual nature; converses with a superstitious dwarf shepherd who enjoys his goats sexually; and confronts a demonically possessed priest who places rich foods in Simon's food sack and accuses him of hypocrisy in his asceticism. Simon must also withstand assaults from his own personal devil. She appears to him as an innocent girl wearing a sailor dress and bares her thighs and breasts. Simon defends himself by prayer, and she is transformed into a hideous, naked hag. Later she appears with a flock of lambs as the "good shepherd," exhorting Simon to leave his column and surfeit himself on worldly pleasures. Simon again banishes her and vows to stand on one leg in penance for his weakness. Another priest, Daniel, climbs a ladder to tell Simon of the ongoing wars engendered by ownership, and when Simon fails to comprehend the meaning of "thine and mine," Daniel declares that his sanctity is irrelevant to man. The Devil at last removes Simon from his pillar to a noisy discotheque in New York City. Simon remains detached in the midst of a frantic, swirling horde. The Devil informs him that his pillar is now occupied by another and that he must remain here until the end.