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Stations Of The Cross (2014) Capsule Review

socOh lord please forgive me for I have sinned, it has taken me over a month since receiving a screener for the Berlin Silver Bear Award winning film Stations Of The Cross to finally get around to seeing one of the more quietly acclaimed films of 2014. Structurally the film has supplicated form to follow content – it is a divided into fourteen individual scenes, each representing the various phases of the journey that Christ took when bearing the cross to the crucifixition. Even more fascinating is that each of the fourteen scenes runs as one, uninterrupted take adopted with a tableau framing, there’s no cuts, no close-ups and therefore no shifting movements of a characters power within each scene. Of course it might be worth outlining the actual content, it’s a German film about a very strict Christian family whom in the 21st century forbid their children to watch TV or listen to music other than Gospel due to potential satanic influences, however these ogres clearly love their family and cannot see the dangers of foisting their beliefs onto adolescents growing up in the largely secular 21st century. One of the teenage girls Maria (an aching performance by Lea van Acken) begins to be torn asunder between her indoctrinated faith and the growing feelings she has for a boy in her class, a tussle which manifests itself in a medical malaise that quickly becomes severe;

Some have interpreted this as a powerful assault on religion, a charge the director Dietrich Brüggemann has rejected, I think it’s fair to frame the film as a condemnation of extreme religion, of when common and perfectly natural bodily reactions are pulled into conflict with the metaphysical – just think of any of those media stories of a patient refusing some medical treatment on religious ground, or rather more fury-inducing parents forbidding lifesaving transplants or transfusions for their critically ill child. The common cinema touchstones are Dreyer (evidently the marketing department are leaning heavily on this as you can see above) and Bresson which is praise I do not offer without all necessary gravitas, but the final, devastating scenes are powerful enough to invite such comparisons, of an implacable superior being remaining silent in the face of supplicant sacrifice. Highly recommended as a film of its time, where fanatics of all denominations somehow still feel justified in inflicting their beliefs and ideology onto other people’s bodies and adolescent minds;


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