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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lord giveth...
There's a certain ambiguity to the questions raised in Lourdes by Austrian director Jessica Hausner, but it's that not Lourdes is too respectful of its subject or wary of causing offense to believers. Rather, the film seems to be attempting to look objectively at the kind of people who go there on a pilgrimage looking for healing and even the possibility of a miracle,...
Published on 13 May 2010 by Keris Nine

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3.0 out of 5 stars Lights, camera, inaction
I'm not expecting Yamaha 750 trials bike to burst through the scenery and spray its muck everywhere but a little bit of plot would have gone a long way. Including actualite from a mass in a fiction film is not a cinematic move. One for the media studies groups only.
Published 3 months ago by Dan Smith


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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lord giveth..., 13 May 2010
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Lourdes [Blu-ray] [2009] (Blu-ray)
There's a certain ambiguity to the questions raised in Lourdes by Austrian director Jessica Hausner, but it's that not Lourdes is too respectful of its subject or wary of causing offense to believers. Rather, the film seems to be attempting to look objectively at the kind of people who go there on a pilgrimage looking for healing and even the possibility of a miracle, while for some it may be enough to just give them the strength and the faith to struggle on, the film attempting in the process to reconcile questions of faith with the realities of human nature and illness.

The film finds some degree of scepticism, objectivity, or perhaps simply humanity in the figure of Christine (Sylvie Testud), a young woman suffering from multiple sclerosis, pretty much paralysed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair, who hasn't come to Lourdes with a group of pilgrims in expectation of a miracle, as much as using it as an opportunity - one of the few available to her, and one she has taken advantage of in the past to go to other holy sites in Europe - to get out and about and meet people. One might think that there would be enough people of a likeminded nature on these trips, but Christine doesn't get the opportunity to speak to many of them and share details of their suffering or their hopes for a cure. It's not so much that Christine's condition doesn't give her much freedom to meet anyone other than the carers from the volunteer nurses looking after her needs, as much the fact that everyone, Christine included, seems to be wrapped up in their own little world of quiet suffering and contemplation, concerned with their own hopes for a cure and fears of it being someone less deserving than themselves who experiences the longed-for miracle.

These are very human responses to basic questions and tenets of faith relating to the will of God, questions that the priest travelling with the pilgrims takes pains to explain to the faithful in terms that everyone will be familiar with - God works in mysterious ways; the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. There's no realistic way of objectively confronting or challenging these questions other than on a personal and individual level, and Hausner allows the viewer to relate to them through a diverse collection of characters and, admirably, manages to do this without any unwarranted cynicism or didacticism, allowing actions, silences and glances between the characters to speak for themselves.

If it doesn't delve too deeply then into questions of faith, suffering and miracles, Lourdes does at least address them in terms of human hopes and failings, which the viewer can't help but identify with. The pace might be somewhat slow and deliberate, the look of the film intentionally austere and almost documentary-like, but without being directly provocative the film nonetheless raises interesting questions in a thoughtful and sometimes humorous manner that entertains at the same time as it gives you something to think about.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hope, fear, and human contact, 10 Aug 2010
This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
This film is probably quite disturbing to anyone who watches it (that is, whatever their beliefs may be about the miraculous, or about Lourdes in particular). A young woman goes to Lourdes. She is sceptical, suffering from Multiple sclerosis, lonely, observant, and wanting what other young women of her age want from life. Since she is in a wheelchair, she has 'carers' or escorts, who wheel her around, but these escorts are young people who have their own preoccupations. They chat and flirt as though she is not there (after all she is literally on a 'different level' from them). The escorts' behaviour both dehumanises this young woman, and at the same time stirs her wish to participate in these normailities of life. Despite her emotional detachment and her pain at being ignored, she is aroused to hope that perhaps ... just perhaps ... she might be one of those rare Lourdes visitors who is healed. Then the film takes one of its many unexpected and disturbing turns. These turns can seem sequentially to confirm secular scepticism and then to confirm faithful hope, and then to give comfort to neither. Ultimately, and speaking for myself, the film carried this lesson, that if our role is to care for other people (whether in a caring profession or as a volunteer), this means taking the people we care for seriously. It does not mean treating them as though they were background scenery or lacking in hopes, fears and the need for human engagement. The supernatural backdrop to this film (such as it is) is not therefore its main theme. This is a human story and a painful object lesson.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very touching and thought provoking, 30 Aug 2010
By 
Mr. Anthony V. Langford (england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
I have been eagerly looking forward to watching this film after reading different points of view about it.

For me I was captivated by it.

Lourdes is very special to me as I have been there on a number of occasions with a friend who is disabled and requires the energy of a companionion to wheel him around (pushing a wheelchair round Lourdes is a great way to get fit!)

Lourdes has that special way of making even the most devout person become very sociable with others after the duties of the day are done, only those who experience Lourdes can understand this, so watching the film I could understand the young carers and helpers in their at times "over the top excitabilities" though many who go to Lourdes in a caring role may question their priorities after watching the film.

The film had a wonderful way of little things making it very watchable, such as Christine's red hat being visible in the crowds and the silences in scenes (Christine enjoying an ice cream sundae, and the wonderful scene in the party after she was left standing with her room companion come to mind.

These scene silences speak amazingly to the watcher, much more than if many words had been spoken, especially if one looks deep into Christines facial expressions.

Great acting all along by Sylvie Testud and Lea Seydoux who plays a very proffesional but cold head of pilgrim care, and to all who made the story a complete delight.

The only question I would ask the director is "where on earth did you find that singer" but he had a great voice (whatever he was singing about) and I think he was quite cool, (and has the same hair style that I have!)

Jessica Hausner (the director) many thanks for this very touching, thought provoking and beautiful cinematic miracle.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Less is more!, 11 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
Having been impressed with Austrian film maker Jessica Hausner's 'Hotel' and 'Lovely Rita'my hopes were high for 'Lourdes'. If anything I found Lourdes even more fascinating. And after watching it at least six times I have found fresh insights and subtleties on each viewing. I have chosen the rather cryptic title (in relation to the film as film) because it is the absolute antithesis of atandard Hollywood fare. Hausner never rams home a cinematic point, or a particular idea, ideology. It is an eminently 'adult' film, and here I certainly don't mean adult in terms of film rating, but adult in the sense that Hausner leaves a space of uncertainty, undecidability, for the viewer to make her or his interpretations, conclusions. She is addressing an intelligent, observent, perceptive viewer. I would suspect some would watch the film and complain that not much happened! But in reality a great deal is 'happening'. Much more than I thought a film could project. In a sense her fellow Austrian Michael Haneke also makes films which, at many levels, are left open for the viewer. But whereas Haneke's cinema focuses on extreme, often violent human complexities, Hausner draws attention to to the ostensibly more subtle, or everyday impressions of human contexts and responses, both affective and critical. And although there is nothing one could call 'everyday' or quotidian about Lourdes; its southern French location and reputation as a Catholic sanctuary of healing, Hausner projects a constellation of characters, their very human contradictions,ambiguities,negative and positive character traits. One of its more substantive, themes are the antinomies between a hope for a physical cure from a particular malady, and the theological focus on the healing of the 'soul'as a condition of miracle cures. At several points pilgrims confront the Priest to enquire about the conditions for a miracle cure, a release from physical pain and infirmity, only to receive the rather vague reply that a pysical cure is only an effect of an enriched soul, a coming closer to divinity. Of course the questioners look rather confused, and dissatisfied by such numinous responses. And as the film progresses the responses to questions around divine selectivity in matters of healing, become more cliche'd and platitudinous. God works in mysterious ways!

The young woman Pilgrim Christine, superbly played by Sylvie Testud, is the central character. In fact I would go beyond this and contend that she is the vector around which all the films other ironies, twists, turns, character situations both evolve and revolve. Much of what happens in the film is from Chritine's point of view. But we also know Christine, not so much from what she says, but from her facial expressions and bodily comportment. The first scene were Christine(confined to a wheelchair with MS)is being fed by her young nurse Marie,she,Christine,turns around and smiles as though at us the viewers. The first impression here is of a beautiful young woman's innocent, spontaneous smile. But throughout Christine's smile seems variously contrived (as though she has been trained to smile),impish,even a little provocative and mischievious,ironic,but also full of humility and poignancy, another theme the film touches upon. She is a kind of woman-child, but not altogether. With this focus on visage, mostly on Christine, but also on the senior nurse Cecile, I was reminded a few times of Falconetti in Dreyer's classic la Pucelle film. But Hausner's mise-en-scene has none of Dreyer's mannered expressionism. Christine tells her Nurse that she came to Lourdes not so much in the hope of a miracle cure, but as a chance to travel, to meet new people, to break her sense of confinement. One reviewer wrote that Christine claimed that she was not a believer. After watching the film very carefully I can cinfirm that Chrstine does not actually make this claim. But it is certainly implied. We learn that Christine is a most candid individual. The Confession scene tells a lot about Christine in relation the films many leitmotives. She tells the priest that she is angry that she cannot lead a normal life. Also that she feels envy for those around her who do. That she does not feel pity for those in a worse condition than she. She is human, all to human! Her simple point here is that she wants to be an ordinary active young woman. The priest's rhetoric around the soul, what God ordaines, and that she is unique, presumably as chosen by God, is of little consolation to her. The wish to be normal, ordinary is depicted in many scenes, as when Christine quasi flirts with an older male helper Kuno, and looks jealous when she sees Marie chatting up Kuno; also another wonderful scene, when she has been 'cured', and is totally enjoying a chocolate sundae al - fresco. But this normal life she longs for, to derive such pleasure in the simple joys of life, and with such humility, makes her very extraordinary. Another very telling scene is where after she seems to be cured, and can get up and walk etc, she is asked whether she felt some divine 'illumination' engulfing her inner being ( or words to that effect) she simply replies 'no not really' to the consternation of the priest, and to her fear that she might have broken some divine rule. Another crucial moment is when Christine, after her cure, learns from one of the in house doctors that temporary improvement in her condition, followed by regression is quite normal. Obviously both the priest and Christine play this down. Although I had the feeling, especially in the last dance scene, where she is dancing with Kuno but collapses, stunned but quickly getting up and refusing her walking stick, that she knows deep down that her remission may only be temporary, but is simply glad to sieze her chance to be normally active, if only for a brief period.

The films actual location at Lourdes, Hausner getting special permission to film there, provides most of the mis-en-scene replete with outdoor excursion scenes with the resplendent Pyrenees mountain range clearly visible. We are given rare glimpses into the dormitaries, the anointment chambers, and the huge Lourdes Basilica. These scenes are juxtaposed with the commercial outlets at Lourdes whith all manner of religious paraphernalia on sale as a kind of sardonic antidote to the the tone of peity generated.The lack of piety is also shown in the scenes where the young female helpers are ignoring pious protocl chatting and giggling, all noticed by Christine, who really wishes she were ordinary like them. The sardonic tone is also voiced by some of the pilgrims relating to Christine's cure, 'she wasn't particularly pious' as one of the older women exclaimes. Why her and not someone more deserving? And when Chritine collapses in the final dance scene there follow comments as to the authenticity of the cure shot through with shades of schadenfreud.

Most reviews have commented on the documentary style of the film. This partly true. Although the already mentioned focus on Christine's, and other facial contours are far from documentary. Also I noted a painterly influence in at least one scene. Early on in the film Christine is chatting with some of the other pilgrims and for a few muinutes seems to lapse into a coma. As attempts are made to recover her nurse Cecile stands there with a rather severe expression I thought reminiscent of the expression of the Madonna in Masaccio's monumental and austere Trinity in the Santa Maria Novella in Florence. And I was particulay struck by the effective use of Bach's Choral Prelude 'Ich ruf dir, Herr Jesu Christ' from the Orgelbuchlein, used mostly in scenes where Christine is anointed with curative water. This sublime music has been used in other films. But I was particularly taken by the the way that Tarkovsky used it in 'Solaris' in relation to Hausner's film. The Tarkovsky's science fiction film is of course very different from Hausner's film. But it is fascinating to observe that both films, despite their differences, deal with states of ontological ambiguity. Astronaut Kelvin's late wife, in Solaris, has parallels with Christine. In both we are unsure whether their existence has been mediated by some extra-terrestial force.

I could go on and make more visual, literary paralles with, for instance, the strange scene where nurse Cecile collapses revealing her bald head and is taken away on a stretcher. Whether bald by shaving, or illness is not made clear. Although the films many outstanding virtues, not least its economy, work on myriad levels, it is finally Sylvie Testud's wonderfully diverse and moving portrayal of Christine, her sensitivity, her simple joy in wanting to live,her extraordinary ordinarines, her humility, which make this film very moving and special.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Happiness / Is a hand full of love put on the heart, 20 Feb 2012
By 
Philoctetes (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
Lourdes is the kind of film that gets under your skin whether you like it or not. The kind that brings to the surface so much repressed yearning.

Sylvie Testud plays the central role of a young paralysed woman in amongst a group of pilgrims to Lourdes, the legendary Marian shrine where millions have journeyed in search of healing. Although the story is a fiction it is based on testimonies of the visitors to Lourdes, heavily researched by the author, Jessica Hausner. The presentation gives the impression of a fly-on-the-wall documentary and has something of the almost aimless modernity of someone like Antonioni. What keeps one interested is the recognisably human attributes of the various visitors: hope, despair, bitterness, sarcasm, jealousy, kindness, felicity; above all, dignity, especially that of Testud's character, whose quiet poise and sometimes enigmatic gaze draws the viewer like a magnet. (Of course, it helps that she's blonde and wears a red hat.)

I will try to resist a spolier, except to say that the central character does experience a transfiguration which was inevitable given the slow pace and lingering shots of people filing in and out of assembly rooms. I wasn't entirely convinced by the incursions of Schubert and Bach on the soundtrack (the latter reminiscent of Solaris), and I don't know what is meant by the attribute "high suspense" offered on the Birds Eye View website (courtesy another contributor here). What is admirable is the way all attitudes and opinions relative to the context are included and presented without judgement. Are their miracles? Are miraculous events religious? Can the spirit be healed in a broken body through force of personality?

Catholicism doesn't get a good press hereabouts, nowadays, and it's nice to see a film where barring one or two episodes of spite the emotional power of the rituals is visible and the sincerity of the priest's words of guidance is genuine though a little evasive. Alongside the religious kitsch and disappointments are opportunities for generosity and fellowship that exist uniquely where there is a spiritual centre. One thing I take away from Lourdes is that it's better to be alive and with people than isolated and alone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, 29 Jun 2014
By 
Miles Alura (London, Londom, GB) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
This is sensitive, and not what I expected. It is a good lesson for anyone who goes to Lourdes. Lourdes is to get close to yourself, others and God.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Lights, camera, inaction, 3 April 2014
By 
This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
I'm not expecting Yamaha 750 trials bike to burst through the scenery and spray its muck everywhere but a little bit of plot would have gone a long way. Including actualite from a mass in a fiction film is not a cinematic move. One for the media studies groups only.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very interesting film, 20 Sep 2010
This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
This is not a typical lourdes film so dont expect the song of bernadette, this is however a very good film which after watching it left me thinking a lot about the film and the characters in it and their own individual stories, we are all looking for some kind of miracle and at times we look in the wrong places and dont see whats in front of us, this is a very interesting and very french ( in style) film, and i highly recommend it.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The case rests mi'Lud in the rainbow spectrum of belief, 6 Oct 2010
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
The title hints at a documentary structure,Lourdes is the French town at the base of the Pyrennes,synonymous with the notion of miraculous cures. This movie was shot in Lourdes, with the agreement of Church authorities.The film is subtly hedging its agnostic bets,beautifully filmed and composed with long-shot or side-angled photography. Testud as Christine,a young qudraplegic woman with MS,who is wheel-chair bound and comes as a `pilgrim'to Lourdes. She can't see why she's been afflicted and wants more from life, to be like `normal' people.Jessica Hausner, an Austrian film-maker,wanted not to mock the idea of spiritual comfort or bodily repair,she wanted to do a test-case healing,but with such precision and sardonic wit,that the repercussions,envy,insight into the pilgrims' minds, the fall-out,of the miracle that is not, are superbly rendered.The attitudes of other pilgrims to Christine after her healing are wonderfully depicted,why her and not me? There is a Greek chorus in the two fellow pilgrims,garrulous fraus,Huber and Spor.Also we get the concurrent life of the Order of Malta volunteers,whose lack of piety and flirting with each other,mirror in some way Christine's low-key response to a miracle cure.Has she merely won on the lottery to find out her ticket has the wrong numbers?Is she a higher form of traveler in a ghastly cultural/ spiritual package tour?Christine seems to compete with Maria,a volunteer for the attentions of Kuno,an older man Order helper.We get a reflection of different degrees of spirituality:some like Cecille who overdo it,a stickler for religious protocol and religious respect,doesn't believe in miracles, collapses.

There is the hint of Jacques Tati's influence with the choreography of movement of the crowd scenes,the sublime in the form of a comedy of manners.Christine,a wheelchair confined invalid going along for the ride on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, by which I mean that it is a pilgrimage only for the group she is with, as 1) a sceptic and 2) bored and lonely because of her condition, she has more or less tagged along for lack of an alternative. There's a nice mix of satire and sentiment at work here as we note the commercial aspects of organised religion and the negative aspects of human nature masquerading as piety. But, her mind is vibrant, she seems to accept the help of nurse volunteers at Lourdes with a pleasant demeanor. She tells a priest, in confession, that she gets angry over her diagnosis and feels envious of able bodied people, like a nurse who is flirting with a man on the trip that she fancies. This is like a group tour, with a different activity each day: a hike through the grotto, a bath in the water, even an award at the end of the trip for the "Best Pilgrim." Christine has Frau Hartl stay with her. Their relationship is one of fellow pilgrims/caregiver, they barely talk or interact, except in a very distant fashion. A couple of the older volunteers hang together at night and discuss deep topics of faith and spirituality. Juxtapose that with Christine confessing to her nurse that she is not really a believer, she just goes on the pilgrimages because she can't really get out of the house for much else. When the inevitable miracle occurs, within the group, some are jealous, others are sceptical, others just wonder why some are chosen and others are not.A medical examination proves inconclusive.We get the wobble on the dance floor.The music consists of Schubert, Bach spiritual standards and some karaoke at the end.The colour scheme dominated by blue with some splashes of red.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a parody, 12 Nov 2011
This review is from: Lourdes [DVD] (DVD)
If you know little of nothing about the Lourdes phenomenon, this film will show you just what an amazing place it is, and has been since the time of Bernadette. The simple fact is that sick people go there to offer their suffering to the Lord.

Yes, there is undoubtedly the Blackpool-commercial side, unavoidably since Lourdes is the second only to Paris in the number of visitor overnights. Yes, there are undoubtedly those who go there with unrealistic expectations.

But thousands upon thousands, millions upon millions, go there with their helpers to be blessed, and to acknowledge their human frailty. There has been a small number of accredited miraculous cures. But vast numbers have been comforted by their pilgrim experience.

The film reduces everything to a pretty basic level. We have the volunteer who deserts her charge to go off with the boys. We have the bigot who insists on saying her prayers, but organises outings which exclude half of her party. We have a pretty cheesy love story. And, naturellement, we have a miracle.

There's a decent film waiting to be made about the human and spiritual dimensions of Lourdes. This isn't it. Try The Song of Bernadette instead - corny, cavalier with the facts, but much truer to the spirit of the place.
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Lourdes [DVD]
Lourdes [DVD] by Jessica Hausner (DVD - 2010)
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