August 8, 2012

Seen and Heard

Finally got around to watching Margarethe von Trotta’s film on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, which has been languishing in the hermitage of my Netflix queue for several liturgial seasons. I’m not sure what took me so long; perhaps I thought it would be a pious and tedious tract. On the contrary it is a rather entertaining portrait of an extraordinary woman — extraordinary in her own day, and likely any day up until the present, and perhaps even now.

The atmosphere captures the era well, though things do seem a bit tidier than they likely were. The several books that make their appearances look just a bit too much like modern books, but that is a minor point. Friedrich Barbarossa wearing what appears to be a dalmatic or tunicle in his rec room seemed a bit more odd. But such items were transient distractions. There is much wonderful music in the film, as would be expected. But one would have appreciated, in a film with this title, a bit more focus on the illuminations of the famed visions.

But the main attraction is the interaction of the characters — and anyone who thinks that politics is new to the church ought to check out the interplay of abbots, bishops, archbishops, popes, Margravines, and even the odd would-be-emperor, with whom good Hildegard has to deal as she stakes out a patch to live out her vision. She is not portrayed as a plaster saint — far from it — but as a brilliant, charismatic visionary, subject to the same human perils of particular friendship, and the attendant presence of the Green Eyed Monster who looms periodically and occasionally steps into the foreground. The human drama is set against a spiritual and ecclesiastical tug-og-war, and while low-key for the most part, it is quite compelling.

Performances are good without exception. Barbara Sukowa captures Hildegard’s ambiguities and ambitions well;  Heino Ferch is sympathetic as the priest / counselor to the sisters; Hannah Herzsprung serves well as the cause of much envy, and Lena Stolz as its victim and exponenet.

My score: 8 out of 10. Well worth seeing.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

4 comments:

JCF said...

Yes, I was struck by the "particular friendship" (read: Girl-Crush!) aspect. Not even the saints are immune...

Kirkepiscatoid said...

This film's a hidden gem. I've watched it several times!

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, JCF and K. Hope these comments may convince more viewings...

WSJM said...

"Vision" was languishing in the hermitage of my Netflix queue also! Finally dug it out. Thanks for the prompting. An excellent and very interesting film. I agree that it's very much worth seeing. I noticed that Hildegard did have an intense bout or two of Mother-Foundress-itis. But then, there's been a lot of that going around in the history of both men's and women's orders. It also looked like the Archbishop of Mainz got his vestments from Wippell's, which is a little anachronistic! (Why don't movie producers hire you or me as consultants? It would save them some mistakes...!)