lunes, 15 de noviembre de 2010

Orbis Terrarum Film Mini-Challenge: Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen

Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen
Directed by Margarethe von Trotta
Germany, 2009

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!

Stu from Winstonsdad's Blog: Wings of Desire

5 comentarios:

  1. I'm psyched to read your thoughts on this and specifically to hear that the treatment of Hildegard is non-sensational, as that was something I was worried about vis-a-vis this film. Now I'll definitely check it out.

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  2. Great review. Hildegard von Bingen has been important for me all my life. How many people excelled in so many things? We have shops here that sell products according to her teachings, food and herbal medicines etc. I got books, cookbooks, manuals and CDs with recordings of her music. But I haven't seen the movie. It somehow escaped my attention. Thanks for this review. I will have to watch it soon. Margarethe von Trotta has done a lot of fine movies. This seems to be one more.

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  3. Enjoyed your review, in particular these words, "she doesn't attempt to explain away or oversell Hildegard's visions--they just happen...," for the insanely synchronous reason, as though in a flash, that they help me put my finger more squarely on an aspect of O'Connor's writing that has been troubling me, as I make my way through her short stories. "It just happens," where "it" is the operation of grace, under Catholic description, or the presence of the mystical or ineffable, under some other description. Sorry to ramble, thank you for the review, wonderful. Cheers, Kevin

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  4. I love the idea that Von Trotta didn't attempt to explain or offer up her own assumptions about Hildegard's visions. I'd really like to see this movie - and I wouldn't mind tracking down some of her music. I have vague memories of my mother listening to her when I was a child...

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  5. *Emily: Although I'm not sure how true to Hildegard's life this was not having really read her and all, I thought the film avoided a lot of the usual clichés and wasn't sensationalistic at all. Felt very drawn to some of the characters, too. By the way, thanks again for playing along with the movie challenge in September!

    *Caroline: Thanks so much for the kind words AND for the info about Hildegard von Bingen's continuing impact in your neck of the woods! Fascinating stuff. I knew next to nothing about Margarethe von Trotta ahead of time, but when I took a quick look at her filmography, I saw some familiar titles I need to watch one of these days. Very much enjoyed the job she did here.

    *Kevin: Loved hearing your anecdote about that "insanely synchronous reason," esp. because I just read O'Connor earlier in the year (inspired by Emily's review of A Good Man Is Hard to Find last year on her Evening All Afternoon blog) and know exactly what you're talking about without having drawn that connection myself. Too funny! In any event, thanks so much for your kind comment and the visit (I have to apologize, though, for having discovered your own blog recently and enjoyed it without having introduced myself there). Cheers!

    *Sarah: I thought that was a subtle and very restrained piece of filmmaking on Von Trotta's part and something that definitely added to my enjoyment of the movie. Was also gratified to hear your and Caroline's accounts of the staying power of Hildegard's music as I had mistakenly thought that her texts were all that had survived her. Unexpected info!

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