Directed by Margarethe von Trotta
While I'd been meaning to read something by Hildegard von Bingen for about the past five or six years, German director Margarethe von Trotta basically rescued me from my lethargy with this fine film portrait about the 12th century Benedictine nun, woman of letters, and mystic. One of the interesting things about the director's approach is that she doesn't attempt to explain away or oversell Hildegard's visions--they just happen, throughout the film as throughout her life, the point being that they eventually begin to seem as natural as the sickly Hildegard's propensity for being laid up with various physical afflictions. Another thing I liked about the film was its attention to small day to day details and people rather than platitudes. While I think that Von Trotta was quite wise to sidestep the question of whether Hildegard's visions were the product of mental illness or supernatural spirituality (we'll all have our own opinions on that one anyway), an unexpected bonus of her neutrality on the matter is that Hildegard's role as magistra, and later abbess of her own convent, is given more play here than it would have in sensationalistic hands. Partly as a consequence of this and partly as a result of the acting, the relations between nuns and nuns and nuns and priests felt real to me--more so than in most movies in any event. In short, if you were ever curious about what it must have been like to try and lead a normal life as an outstanding woman, maybe even a feminist avant la lettre, in a culture where that brought about more detractors than admirers, I think you could do a whole lot worse than this for an answer. Nice solid effort, with a compelling performance by Barbara Sukowa in the lead role, although the U.S. movie poster's soulless imitation of a perfume ad from Vanity Fair may rightly make you question my judgement (I'd understand, believe me).
Margarethe von Trotta
Orbis Terrarum Film Mini-Challenge
Reviewing a foreign film in November? Let me know, and I'll add the link to it to here. Big belated thanks to Emily and Stu, who contributed movie reviews below, back in September. Cheers!
Emily from Evening All Afternoon: Le million, Wild Strawberries, Babies, and Man on Wire
Stu from Winstonsdad's Blog: Wings of Desire