Lourdes

 

Lourdes

Produced by Martin Gschlacht, Philippe Bober, Susanne Marian

Written & Directed by Jessica Hausner

Release dates:

Venice Film Festival: September 5, 2009

Sundance Film Festival – January 22, 2010

USA release date: February 17, 2010

 

Cast:

Sylvie Testud - Christine

Léa Seydoux - Maria

Elina Lowensohn - Cecile

Gilette Barbier - Madame Hartl

Bruno Todeschini - Kuno

Gerhard Liebmann – Pater Nigl

Linde Prelog – Frau Huber

Hubsi Kramer – Herr Olivetti

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: ARTE, Canal+, Coop 99

Video: Palisades Tartan Spotlight

 

Video: 

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD25

Feature Size: 19 GB

Bit Rate: Moderate-High (25-35 Mbps)

Runtime: 99 minutes

Chapters: 11

 

Audio:

French DTS-MA HD 5.1

 

Subtitles:

Optional English

 

Extras:

• Interview with the Director - in SD (3:05)

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray Case: BRD x 1

Street Date: September 13, 2011


 

Synopsis [Palisades]

The film tells the story of the pilgrimage to Lourdes. Among the pilgrims are sufferers of various illnesses as well as others in good health. They undertake the journey in hopes of finding spiritual comfort or bodily cure. The main character, Christine, has been confined to a wheelchair by an incurable disease. We accompany her on a voyage, discovering Lourdes through her eyes and experiencing her desire for social relationships and the company of other people. Her life was shattered by the disease, which has constrained her to an isolation from which she is now trying to escape

 

Maria is a young volunteer of the Order of Malta and Christine’s caretaker. She accompanies Christine to the baths and on procession, feeds her, washes her, and helps her to bed. Christine observes Maria’s world with a hint of envy. She sees in Maria a reflection of her own past, which instills her with newfound hope. Maria, however, prefers to associate with people her own age and tries to avoid the spectacle of illness paraded before her. Christine contents herself with the company of Madame Hartl, a severe and solitary old woman who has not come to Lourdes to be cured of physical illness, but to ease the suffering caused by a life spent in complete solitude. The emptiness of her existence is filled in taking care of Christine and praying for her. Christine’s health improves miraculously over the course of her stay. Her healing inspires admiration, but also doubt and jealousy.


     

 

Director’s Biography:

Jessica Hausner was born the 6th of October 1972 in Vienna, Austria. She studied directing at the Filmakademie of Vienna, where in 1996 she made the short film FLORA, which won the Leopard de Demain at the Locarno Festival. INTER-VIEW, her graduation film, won the Prix du Jury of the Cinefondation at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999. Two years later, LOVELY RITA, her first feature film, was presented in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival before being distributed in twenty territories. Her second feature film HOTEL was again selected in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival 2004, and won the Grand Prix for the Best Austrian Feature at the Diagonale 2005. LOURDES is her third film.


     

 

Director’s Comments:

Lourdes is a cruel fairy-tale, a day dream or a nightmare. People [from all over the world] go to Lourdes hoping to get their health back, hoping for a miracle because Lourdes is a place where the existence of miracles is still asserted, a place synonymous of hope, comfort and recovery for the desperate and dying. But the ways of God are unfathomable, and the hope that on the verge of death, everything may turn out alright is one that seems absurd when life is drawing to an end.

 

A miraculous healing is unjust. Why is one person healed and not another? What can one do to be healed? Pray, like the mother of the apathetic girl; choose humility, like Cecile;

or on the contrary, do nothing, like Christine? There is no answer to this question. Miracles lean towards the arbitrary, they occur without logic or reason. While miracles are fundamentally unjust, they’re nevertheless an absolute delight for the person healed. A person who has presumably been miraculously cured has no guarantee, however, that the cure will last. The healing offers a new opportunity for Christine – she would like to enjoy life – but she understands that her newfound happiness could come to an end at any moment. She thus starts to search for meaning, to ask if she must do something in particular to prove herself worthy of recovery. What can she do to make the miracle last? Does God hear her prayers?  - Jessica Hausner


     

 

Critical Reaction:

NY Times:

Moving between heaven and hell, or perhaps just sky and earth, the pilgrims who walk and tremble and are sometimes pushed through “Lourdes” in wheelchairs are usually seen at a remove. One exception is Christine, a young woman with multiple sclerosis who is played by the French actress Sylvie Testud. Tucked into a wheelchair, her limbs immobile and hands tightly curled, Christine looks around her — at the other visitors, the helpful aides, the strange locale — with a gaze that seems at once incurious and beatific.

One of the pleasures of this intelligent, rigorously thoughtful, somewhat sly film is that it takes place in the space between the inexplicable (no explanation is possible) and the unexplained (enlightenment might be around the corner). Its director, Jessica Hausner, an Austrian working here in French, wants to explore the mysteries of life, not its certainties. One great mystery, of course, is faith itself, how people come to believe what they do and how those beliefs affect not just their thinking and feelings but also their bodies. For Christine, who speaks most profoundly through the eerie quiet of her nearly inert form — and then later through a possibly miraculous physical transformation — belief is inscribed on the body itself.

What happens to Christine is mystifying, simultaneously (as they say at Lourdes) inexplicable and unexplained. Ms. Testud, a tiny actress with an often oversize and ferocious screen presence, delivers a minutely detailed performance that telegraphs a world with a thrust of her chin, a widening of her eyes. Save for the last astonishing shot of Christine’s face — now a whirlwind of expressive feeling — Ms. Testud keeps her performance generally muted, perhaps to help safeguard Ms. Hausner’s secrets. There is, after all, so much that we can’t and don’t know. As one woman says at the end of the film, during a short discussion of God, we do not know who’s in charge. And then this same woman asks a question that puts her spiritual question into comic relief: what, she wonders, is for dessert? Mysteries, as Ms. Hausner attests, abound.  – Manohla Dargis


     


LensView:

The Movie: 7.5

The first good look we have of the heroine, Christine, is as she turns her head sharply over her shoulder to smile  in the direction of the camera.  At us, perhaps?  There is no one else there.  It is an arresting moment - something that rarely occurs in films today, except in comedy, which :Lourdes” certainly is not. 


Camera placement is of particular interest in this film, for we are obviously at Lourdes and not a set for the most part, and yet the camera is always locked down.  There is no use of handheld camera as there almost certainly would have been in the hands of other contemporary filmmakers.  I felt a curious connection about this to the drama unfolding.  Is the grounding of the camera telling us something about the attitude of the filmmaker to her subject, to the notion of miracles?  I wasn’t sure.


     


It would be interesting, I thought, to get a focus group of non-believers together to talk about their experience of seeing this film.  Among the likely responses:


“But of course it’s a work of fiction.”

“Lourdes - the ne plus ultra of theme parks for pilgrims.”

“Such ritual - but who is it for?”

“Who pays for all this? Is there an admission charge?
“Do the priests pray for miracles or pray for there to be no miracles?

Which outcome tests their faith more?”
“Ditto that for the pilgrims.”

“And the helpers.”

“Ah, this Brave New Church to have such believers in it!”

“When the priests speak of the ‘soul’ do they not mean ‘the heart’?”

“Lourdes could teach a thing or two to American Evangelical churches.”

“But what about Christine - Doesn’t she have recurring remitting MS?  Perhaps her healing was just a remission waiting for another relapse to drop.”

“No, the issue here is: how should a person live their live regardless of their lot?”

“A person afflicted asks: ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve this’ A person healed asks: ‘Why me? What do I owe to maintain this?’”

“I’d be afraid to go to sleep to find on awakening the healing vanished.”


I would love to be there.


     

 

Image: 7/9

Intentional or the result of limitations imposed, many interior shots offered by Ms. Hausner and Director of Photography Martin Gschlacht are unevenly lit.  Note that people are well lit from the waist up, but from the waist to the floor light falls off in a crush of blacks, grays and blues, which, except for flashes of red and flesh, is what most of these scenes are made of anyhow.  It’s a strange rendering that also results in a mix of contrast: high in the upper half of the frame, painterly, dramatic; low and ucertain in the lower half.  I don’t know if this was deliberate in order to spotlight the subjects or if fill was not available or permitted for some reason.  To be fair, I doubt most viewers will notice or care.


    


Aside from this curiosity, the blue-filtered image is clear, sharp, highly resolved and without distracting transfer artifacts.  The disc itself is complete on a single layer, and hardly needs more, since the length of the movie and absence of bonus features do not demand it.  I did not perform a bit rate analysis, but whenever I checked it with my OPPO the numbers were most often in the low 30s.


This Blu-ray from Palisades Tartan appears to be derived from the same source as that used by Artificial Eye released in the U.K. a year ago, and reviewed on DVD Beaver.


     

 

Audio & Music: 7/10

The dialogue is always clear and appropriately scaled, yet for a film that offers the possibility and, in this case, the expectation of immersive sound, neither the music nor the voicing in the cathedral do any more than suggest the space.  This may have been a deliberate decision on the part of the director and her sound designer, Out of silence Erik Mischijew, in order not to lend an artifice to the proceedings.  I can’t fault her for that.  Still, I yearned for more.


The music, often played on organ but also sung by solo voice or chorus, is chosen from the popular spiritual and secular oeuvre (prominently Bach and Schubert) - always in the best taste and of dramatic import, and heard in a telling acoustical space.  Note the particular use of Bach’s famous Toccata & Fugue in D Minor.


     


Translation & Subtitles:

The Lord giveth and taketh away.  While the translation, as near as my meagre French can assure me, is adequate and in good idiomatic English, without misspellings or grammatical mistakes.  The subtitles, in a garish yellow font, are wrong-headed and distracting.  They are not SDH nor do they translate the lyrics of any of the songs, religious or secular.  We miss most a translation of the final song performed by Léa Seydoux & Lado that goes on at some length over a telling closeup of Christine & Madame Hartl at the farewell party at Lourdes.  In the final credits we learn (in French) that the filmmakers were granted authorization to film in various locations at the Sanctuaries Notre Dame de Lourdes. There are details, but none are translated.


     

 

Extras: 1

The lone three-minute “Talent Interview” is a fragment of an interview by the director - or, perhaps, it only seems like a fragment, since so little of what we wish to know is present.  She does, however, speak intelligently, if briefly, of the notion of “miracles” and how the church and pilgrim understands them, and comments on the uniforms of the volunteers of the Order of Malta.

 

Recommendation: 7

Ms Hausner’s film fascinates more than it probes.  She invites our thoughts, feelings and questions and, smartly - like the judge in Miracle on 34th Street - offers no opinion on the existence of Miracles, or Santa Claus.  I liked the film and expect to return to it with friends in my audience.  Despite the curiously uneven lighting in some scenes and the lack of intensive immersive surround sound, both picture and audio quality are very keen, and most viewers would not ask for better.  Too bad, really, about the scant extra features.


     


LOURDES
OFFICIAL SELECTION – Sundance Film Festival 2009

OFFICIAL SELECTION – Venice Film Festival 2009

OFFICIAL SELECTION - Toronto Film Festival 2009

WINNER – Vienna International Film Festival 2009

WINNER - Warsaw International Film Festival 2009

WINNER Best Actress (Sylvie Testud) – European Film Awards 2010


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

August 11, 2011



A Bit of Lourdes History:

In 1858, from the 11th of February, the Virgin Mary appeared 18 times before Bernadette Soubirous at the Grotto of Massabielle at Lourdes. On the 1st of March of the same year, around the time of the Virgin’s 10th apparition, Catherine Latapie, who was present at the Grotto of Massabielle, was inexplicably cured of a cubital paralysis. The following year, Professor Vergez, Associate of the Montpellier Faculty of Medicine, was appointed responsible for the observation of healings. Seven healings were subsequently recognized there over the next 4 years and were used by Monsignor Laurence, the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, as evidence of apparitions.

 

Since then, other extraordinary healings have occurred regularly enough to render Lourdes synonymous with miracles. In 1905, Pope Pius X requested the subjection of the most spectacular healings to examination. A Medical Office of Shrines with its own permanent doctor was established at Lourdes. The Office receives claims of healings and decides if an authenticity examination, required by the Church to acknowledge a miracle, should be instigated. These enquiries began under the supervision of the International Medical Committee of Lourdes (Comité Médical International de Lourdes - C.M.I.L.), currently composed of 20 members, each eminent in his respective specialty, who examine each case voluntarily presented to the Medical Office.  The scientists and doctors who make up the C.M.I.L. are driven by the scientific demands that their activities require. They immerse themselves in a detailed medical file before and after a healing and examine the cases in which the statistical probability of a healing is significantly reduced, and in which the afflicted person has not yet obtained the best available treatment. The cases are presented at the annual C.M.I.L meeting accompanied by an interview and full examination of the healed individual. An extraordinary healing could thus be dismissed or explained in medical terms. 

 

In 2008, sixty people visited the Medical Office, claiming to have been healed. During the last annual C.M.I.L meeting in November 2008, five remarkable cases were examined. Since the Medical Office was established, almost 7000 healings have been confirmed, and the Church has thus far acknowledged 66 miracles. The recognition of a miracle is not done by the C.M.I.L. (a miracle has no medical definition) but rather, by the Church.  To fulfill the Church’s definition of the miraculous, a healing must satisfy two conditions: it must happen in an extraordinary and unforeseeable way and it must take place in a religious context, such as at Lourdes. To deem that if a healing has a miraculous quality, or not, a commission in the parish where the healing was registered - overseen by the Bishop – may carry out a collegial evaluation in order to assess the way in which the healing occurred from all perspectives – physical, mental and spiritual – taking into consideration the negative aspects (e.g. exhibitionism) as much as the positive features (e.g. spiritual rewards) produced by this unique experience.


     



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