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Films: Lourdes and Legion

by
24 March 2010

by Terence Handley MacMath and Stephen Brown

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THE NATURE of prayer, healing, miracle, and faith are all teased out to a fine tissue in Lourdes (Cert. U), by Jessica Hausner. The result is ultimately opaque, symbol­ised by the fine white curtains that screen the sick as they are bathed.

The film was made in full co-operation with the Bishop of Tarbes & Lourdes, the Rt Revd Jacques Perrier, and after Hausner’s discus­sions with theologians about miracles. It takes a wide-eyed, poetic, unblinking, and agnostic stare at the Lourdes phen­omenon. That unex­pected combina­tion is its chief strength, matching the Shrine’s beauty and grace, tawdriness, and insti­tutional rigidity — or is it hypocrisy?

It also concurs, perhaps, in the end, with the Christian teaching that miracles, in themselves, have no ultimate significance. Interest­ingly, Hausner achieves this critique even though there is no non-Roman Catholic voice in the film, which takes place entirely within its own locus of faith.

Sylvie Testud gives a haunting, almost wordless, performance as Christine, a pilgrim with multiple sclerosis. The tautness of her anger, doubt, and hope contrast with the fragility of her beauty and the paralysed body she finds herself in.

Within the confines of the human phenomenon that is Lourdes, Haus­ner lets her camera move with con­templative grace through the rituals, and then captures in a second’s glance the personal, perhaps trans­gressive, individual moment of anger, lust, gentleness, brokenness.

Besides the beauty, there is also real human drama here: the men themselves are revealed as wise, cynical, kind, but ultimately without personality. The women are shown variously to be manipulative and manipulated, sick, mad, loving, fragile.

Hausner has managed to touch the delicate heart of the matter: that the basis for belief in hope — or God — does not depend on shrines or miracles, faith, works or divine intervention in the human order of things. It is a current running through life, demonstrated in what­ever allows us to turn our vulnerable selves towards one another and to be open to possibilities of happiness.

On release from today.

IN LEGION (Cert. 15), another apocalyptic offering from Holly­wood, gamekeeper turns poacher. The Archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) totes a chainsaw and some lethal metal wings. He is backed by a horde of angelic powers that descend on Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert.

IN LEGION (Cert. 15), another apocalyptic offering from Holly­wood, gamekeeper turns poacher. The Archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) totes a chainsaw and some lethal metal wings. He is backed by a horde of angelic powers that descend on Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert.

God is angry with what the human race is doing to his creation and plans to sweep it all away. The angels take possession of individ­uals with a view to destroying them. The theo­logy is reminiscent of Old Testament accounts of God removing those corrupting elements before starting things off all over again. The film also injects its own interpretation of the Revelation, in so far as there is a fallen angel — not Lucifer, but Michael.

God is angry with what the human race is doing to his creation and plans to sweep it all away. The angels take possession of individ­uals with a view to destroying them. The theo­logy is reminiscent of Old Testament accounts of God removing those corrupting elements before starting things off all over again. The film also injects its own interpretation of the Revelation, in so far as there is a fallen angel — not Lucifer, but Michael.

This archangel, in the shape of Paul Bettany (who played the demented, murderous Silas in The Da Vinci Code) rebels against God by defending these mortals as best he can. In the end, God stops hardening his heart and sees things from Michael’s point of view, but only after much destruction.

This archangel, in the shape of Paul Bettany (who played the demented, murderous Silas in The Da Vinci Code) rebels against God by defending these mortals as best he can. In the end, God stops hardening his heart and sees things from Michael’s point of view, but only after much destruction.

The film mercilessly plunders the Bible from plagues to flood to spur on its narrative thrust. While more liberal-minded Christians may be at pains to disown the kind of deity personified here, Legion does at least pose the question how we explain some of the more disturbing images of God that scripture offers.

The film mercilessly plunders the Bible from plagues to flood to spur on its narrative thrust. While more liberal-minded Christians may be at pains to disown the kind of deity personified here, Legion does at least pose the question how we explain some of the more disturbing images of God that scripture offers.

All in all, the film is a sneakily enjoyable romp with a delightful mixture of suspense, sheer terror, and a happy ending of sorts. Scott Stewart’s background is in special effects (Blade Runner, Superman, Harry Potter, Sin City, etc.), which may well account for the way he makes faith look so exciting. (Stewart’s next film is called Priest: Paul Bettany disobeying the Church on this occasion in order to zap some mean vampires).

All in all, the film is a sneakily enjoyable romp with a delightful mixture of suspense, sheer terror, and a happy ending of sorts. Scott Stewart’s background is in special effects (Blade Runner, Superman, Harry Potter, Sin City, etc.), which may well account for the way he makes faith look so exciting. (Stewart’s next film is called Priest: Paul Bettany disobeying the Church on this occasion in order to zap some mean vampires).

It is a pity that such arresting visuals are accompanied by a leaden script that owes much to the Sarah Palin school of theology. The faithful remnant left on earth, for instance, appear to be members of the National Rifle Association.

It is a pity that such arresting visuals are accompanied by a leaden script that owes much to the Sarah Palin school of theology. The faithful remnant left on earth, for instance, appear to be members of the National Rifle Association.

On general release.

On general release.

Stephen Brown

Stephen Brown

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