Sunday, December 5, 2010

Visions (Rhoades)

“Visions” Should Be Seen
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, and Harriet Tubman, move over. We’re here to acknowledge an even earlier proponent of women’s lib.

We’re referring to none other than a 12-Century Benedictine nun named Hildegard von Bingen. She was also know as Saint Hildegard, Blessed Hildegard of Bingen, the Prophetissa Teutonica, and Sibyl of the Rhine. This Christian mystic was an accomplished composer, philosopher, playwright, poet, naturalist, scientist, physician, herbalist, and activist. She also wrote the first surviving morality play and supervised the painting of miniature illuminations.

Hildegard’s story is told in “Vision,” a biopic playing this week art the Tropic Cinema.
As the title implies, Hildegard received visions from God. Many people in the Church didn’t accept that claim. Especially when these visions went against clerical wishes. For example, von Bingen’s fierce determination to expand the responsibilities of women within the order. Or her desire to relocate her nuns to the St. Rupertsberg monastery against her Abbot’s wishes.

She’s been called “the modern world's first female rebel.”

A feeble child who experienced visions early on, her noble parents offered her as a “tithe to the church.” After all, they had nine other children.

But this film ignores that early history, beginning on the last night of the first millennium, with little Hildegard surviving a suicide pact of religious zealots.

Described as a child who would “understand the language of plants, stones, and animals and with her heart recognize the signs that are only revealed to a few,” she was turned over to a nun named Jutta who became her mentor. Upon Jutta’s death in 1136, Hildegard was unanimously elected magistra of her sisterhood.
Director Margarethe von Trotta, a darling of New German Cinema, calls on her former collaborator Barbara Sukowa to bring this nun’s story to the screen. And Sukowa doesn’t disappoint, offering up a stunning performance as Hildegard (despite the awkwardness of subtitles).

You’ve seen Barbara Sukowa in such films as Michael Cimino’s “The Sicilian,” Robert Longo’s “Johnny Mnemonic,” Tim Robbins’ “Cradle will Rock,” and John Turturro’s “Romance & Cigarettes.” She’s married to Longo.

Filmmaker von Trotta is perhaps best known to European audiences for films featuring prominent female characters, such as “Marianne and Juliane,” “Rosenstrasse,” and “Rosa Luxemburg” – the latter starring Sukowa.

Deeply involved in the ’70s Women’s Movement, von Trotta rediscovered the story of Hildegard von Bingen while searching for stories about historically forgotten women.

Filmed in the original medieval cloisters in Germany, the cinematography is lush and lovely. But the message overshadows the scenery. “Vision” is meant to offer us an inspirational portrait of a woman who was “an iconoclastic pioneer of faith, change, and enlightenment.”

Mother Theresa, watch out.
[from Solares Hill]

No comments: