Friday, 2 April 2010

Lourdes - Filmhouse - 2/4/10

Written and directed by Jessica Hausner "Lourdes" tells the story of a group of pilgrims visiting the site where Bernadette is alleged to have seen the virgin Mary several times in a grotto on the site. Now many hundreds of thousands visit the site (which resembles a sort of Catholic Disneyland) each year in the hope that they will be cured of all manner of ailments. It is in this setting that Hausner creates a slow moving and intimate tale of what happens when a miracle (apparently) does take place.

Christine (Sylvie Testud) is a young woman who is paralysed from the neck down due to MS. She is utterly reliant on others for everything from getting dressed to eating. While visiting Lourdes she recovers all of her physical faculties and, it appears, we are witness to a miracle. The reaction of the other members of her party vary from wonder to suspicion to anger and hostility.

Despite being the possibility of this being an advertisement for Lourdes and Catholicism Hausner avoids either and also manages to avoid adopting a tone of mockery. The setting and the religion are almost incidental here. Instead we are given an insight into the world of Christine; we sense her frustration at being confined to a wheelchair, we feel her longing for a relationship with a man, we empathise with her attempts to show who she is while so many see her simply as a wheelchair. It is a terrific performance from Testud and even when the inevitable miracle arrives it never seems anything other than convincing.

There is no doubt that the "Lourdes" phenomenon is one that entrances some and horrifies others but this isn't a film about the morality of people with serious illness traveling many hundreds of miles in search of a miracle cure, this is a film about what happens to someone when they receive what they were most desirous of. Hausner has crafted something that is interesting and that connects emotionally with its audience. A film that has much to say but not about what people would expect it to.

1 comment:

  1. I found it rather odd that the "carers" showed little interest in the person they had charge over. As for the town they say in Scotland..."What's that a' aboot"?