Monday, September 14, 2009


Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: Vision, directed by Margarethe von Trotta

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

One of the major auteurs to emerge from New German Cinema and a leader in feminist filmmaking, Margarethe von Trotta returns to the Festival with Vision, a study of the remarkable Hildegard von Bingen. Composer, scientist, healer, author and visionary, this Benedictine nun has been rescued in recent years from the shadows of history. Played here with both strength and nuance by the great Barbara Sukowa, Hildegard emerges as a Renaissance woman before there was a Renaissance.

Brought as a child to Disibodenberg abbey in what is now Germany, Hildegard is raised by the kindly Jutta the Holy (Mareile Blendl). Over the years, she observes both the cloister and the natural world around her, becoming a wise and pious woman. When the time comes for the sisters to choose a new magistra, Hildegard is the overwhelming favourite. She is already a natural mother to all, teaching the sisters about the power of herbal remedies and soothing the sick with her song.

Aware that women are forbidden to preach or interpret scripture, she is careful with her gift of visions, a conduit to God that tells her to disseminate this wisdom throughout the world. She faces great risks bringing these visions before a council of church elders, with some even accusing her of being the mouthpiece of the devil. Through her resolute strength and quiet fortitude, she breaks boundary after boundary, even rising to correspond directly with the pope.

This is the fifth time that von Trotta has worked with Sukowa, and their chemistry together is tangible. Sukowa brings a potent drive to Hildegard; the more resistance she meets, the more radical she becomes.

Von Trotta's cinema has always explored the complex relationships among communities of women – in fact, theorist Thomas Elsaesser has noted that her film Sisters could very well share its title with several of her other films. In this case, the focus comes to rest on triangles within the abbey and the eternal struggle of two daughters for the love of a mother. As always with von Trotta, it is fascinating to watch.

Trailer (without subtitles):

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