I am a huge fan of the Song of Bernadette with Jennifer Jones (1943). In fact, that movie changed my life spiritually. More recently, I read the non-fiction by Franz Werfel and this moved me even more – his story was included; another miracle from the Lady of Lourdes. I am also a psychotherapist for a living and if a movie is made correctly, I can figure it out from the get go. If you have ever watched the Poirot series by Agatha Christie, recall the scene where he is watching a play with his side kick, Inspector Hastings. Poirot is telling Hastings what will happen but it doesn’t and he is confused why it was written that way. That is me in a nutshell. This was written correctly (spoiler alert!) but the ending was way over the top and unnecessary. It was almost like an American film where they have to make everyone feel good. The ending closed up character plot lines but this could have been done in a dialogue – perhaps with his wife. She needed her husband back!
When we meet the character Anna, my first thought was that she was not pious enough. Jennifer Jones/Bernadette, oozed devotion on screen and this is what drew me into the story way back in the late 60’s (when I watched it for the first time). I immediately felt put off by the character and knew this was not another Song of Bernadette. Sure, the directors threw some goofy red herrings like the first picture you see on this YouTube video attached here. They made her look sappy in the beginning and most of the way throughout the film. It wasn’t even confusing when they tried to make it confusing for the audience.
Ulrich Seidl made a trilogy under the title Paradise, which I saw a the WexArts Center several years ago. One of the three was entitled Faith. Not quite an apparition but definitely a woman’s devotion to Jesus. A bit extreme you might say as in “Last Tango in Paris,” kind of extreme, but devoted like Bernadette.
Then we have the Journalist thrown into the mix. A war photo/journalist that for some reason is called in by the Vatican to uncover the truth in this film. Vincent Lindon does a good job acting in this role, so it is not really his fault. He is portraying the confused and lost, post-trauma guy pretty well with all the scenery to help out. However, in the end when he is supposed to be spiritually confused, I guess I missed this part. He still seemed to be a war correspondent acting like someone investigating an apparition even though he had never done something like this before. They did throw in a murder scene photo to help us understand “Oh, now he is in his league.” But, then, the Vatican didn’t know this photo would be there so still confusing.
The story ends with what really happened, though it is a scene that is rather baffling even though it was designed to give us something to think about. It is kind of like a British mystery where at the end, the lines are mumbled so you can’t hear them and you are left wondering why the hell the butcher killed the heiress. You are glad it is over but your still trying to wrap your head around it. Meanwhile, the scenery was elegant as there was an estate and lovely costumes from the 20’s but there is that British ending where someone had sex and fathered a child who waits 40 years to kill the mother or grandfather. The ending of L’apparition is kind of like this too. He meets up with Meriam in her Sister Teresa type role – and why did she need to go to the Middle East to have a baby? Then he is laying a relic at a bombed out monastery in a “dangerous” area that our character is aloof about. He just walks up to this dangerous area and lays the relic down and walks away unscathed. Why, because the movie is over and we hear the film score cuing us as it fades to the credits gently rolling on a black background.
It was a good movie in many respects. There were good actors and interesting scenes that came together enough to hold my interest. For people who have no background in psychology, or films that touch on spiritual realism and non-fiction accounts of actual apparitions, well…ignorance is bliss.