Wednesday, February 1, 2012


2009, 90m, France, Jessica Hausner (dir), Sylvia Testud (as Christine)

Lourdes, a town of picturesque beauty on the mountainous French Spanish border, is the site of the attributed repeated visitations by the Virgin Mary to a peasant girl, in the nineteenth century. Sixty miraculous cures have been officially recognized by the Church among the millions who visit this place of pilgrimage and tourism. This film involves us in the Lourdes experience through young Christine, afflicted with incurable multiple sclerosis. She does miraculously rise from her wheelchair, but will it last? Or maybe it is one of the documented rare cases of temporary remission? The phenomenon is examined from the faith, skeptical, medical and clergical viewpoints, giving us a cross section of views, wisely avoiding conclusions.

The term Lourdes Effect has been coined by a philosopher, which states that the powers that be reveal themselves if at all in less than unambiguous terms. If they did, faith would be unnecessary, putting the cart in front of the horse. The precious commodity of faith is not served platter full by God. The film repeatedly states the religious viewpoint that after all its the spirit that primarily needs to be healed, and it is this healing if it occurs which is the true miracle. (Not to speak of psycho-somatic phenomenon).

Meanwhile this is a restrained film which weaves a slow spell with its lavish visuals, musical score (which uses Schubert's Ave Maria and the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor), the mournful procession of wheelchairs, people who have come with different or no expectations, for rest or for recreation. It is an intelligent if not profound movie, inclining, quite naturally, towards skepticism. The lead role has been performed with exquisite delicacy. Christine is courageous, intelligent and skeptical who only seeks the joys of normal life: work, friendship, health, a family. The cure barely touches the core of her life, beyond child like joy, and a nagging apprehension.

Toccata and Fugue 


Seongyong cho said...

I was not sure about whether she had multiple sclerosis or not. Thanks for confirming that.

S M Rana said...