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Saturday, 27 March 2010

Film - Lourdes - directed by Jessica Hausner

Star rating – 7/10

This would be a frustrating film to watch if you want definite answers about the power of pilgrimage and the existence of miracles. But it is a subtle and beautiful slow-paced insight into the world of faith and devotion, and yet it also has a darkly humorous side which gently pokes fun at the same world.

Christine is a young French woman who has multiple sclerosis, and joins the pilgrimage largely as a way to see the world, as she has also been on a previous similarly organised tour of Rome. She is not particularly devout, as some of her fellow pilgrims observe, but nevertheless takes part in all the organised activities without question or objection. Sylvie Testud gives a mesmerising performance as Christine, who has no real movement from the neck down.

But yes, you guessed it, she is the one who is singled out to receive a miracle, as she realises that the feeling is returning first to her hands, then gradually to the rest of her body, after a trip to take the waters. Most of her fellow pilgrims are ecstatic at the news, but some are doubting Thomases.

This charming film throws a window on the sort of people who need to believe in such miracles, but also on the sort of people who need to ‘help’ these poor people and perform works of great charity. My favourite moment was when three pilgrimage officials are relaxing in an off duty moment one evening and tell each other jokes. But I won’t spoil it by telling the actual joke again here.

A sensitively told story, leaving lots of room for doubt and questioning for those wanting to take that road, with some twists along the way, and with a strangely uplifting message.

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