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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Marks along the way

This is a review of Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg) (2014)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

3 September

This is a review of Stations of the Cross
(Kreuzweg, which means ‘way of the cross’) (2014)

Forget the cinematographic limitation that actually gives one nearly fourteen single takes in tableau style (only eleven where the camera simply does not move) : after the first, where one has one’s doubts*, it is more liberating to the inventiveness of writers Dietrich and Anna Brüggemann (he directs) than one could imagine – not least as the structure mirrors the fact that when the way of the cross is set out, in or around a church, an image to capture the frozen moment in time usually accompanies each step along it, for purposes of contemplation.

That restriction of a static camera-position, broken only incidentally in those few places, does really concentrate the mind and the emotions wonderfully on the amazingly telescoped ambit of the film’s story, starting with a final lesson with the priest to prepare for confirmation. *As that is the first scene, maybe it is not important that at least one (maybe two) of the candidates does not seem to contribute to answering the questions posed by Father Weber – certainly the girl at the far right-hand end of the table does not, and does nothing other than look more or less straight ahead, occasionally moving her hands, and she seems (as, to an extent, does the boy to her right) like a makeweight. (She does not appear again until they are in a pew together for the confirmation address.)

A small hesitation (even if it did make one doubt that the Oulipo-type richness-in-restriction was going to be effective), because the rest of the film is a compelling account of a very short period in Maria’s life, who is one of the candidates, and whose family is part of a fundamentalist Roman Catholic church that names itself after St Paul and rejects changes such as those brought in by The Second Vatican Council (so they still use Latin forms of absolution, etc.). Some in the audience were, rather inappropriately, laughing, as if this were a broad comedy, seemingly unaware that such beliefs (and the systems that keep them operative) are part of life in continental Europe**.

The film cries out to be watched. There is a second chance to do so at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest) / #CamFF 2014 on Thursday 4 September at 2.30

Why should it be seen ? Here are some observations :

* Lea van Acken (Maria), Florian Stetter (Fr. Weber), Franziska Weisz (Maria’s mother) and Lucie Aron (Bernadette) are exceptionally strong – with the only hesitation about cast being as already mentioned

* The clarity of the script and of its delivery mean that one senses all the nuances of Maria’s family and its belief-system, not least her relationship with the dominant mother, and her attempt to fit in with the high demands of living the good life within their church

* Key scenes are at the doctor’s and, afterwards, when Maria is with Bernadette, the au pair

* Before them, the conflict (external) of a group photograph during a walk, and (internal) of Maria’s confession prior to confirmation – the energies, the dynamics, are often laid bare as much by how things are spoken, as well as by what is not spoken

* The power of this film grows and grows – if it does not have tears rolling down one’s cheeks in the closing tableaux, perhaps the film never can achieve that, but it certainly can

For a spoilery Postscript, following that second viewing, click here


* Please see below (where asterisked).

** One doubt here : whether they would have sung the sort of chorale that we hear in the service, and seemingly have approved of Bach’s Chorales, although he was a Lutheran. (Some opposition to Vatican II has also rejected music in worship as a whole.)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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