98 minutes

You might be forgiven for thinking that Austrian director Jessica Hausner's oblique, mysterious moodpiece is a particularly subtle satire of blind faith and organised religion. In fact, ms. Hausner's third feature, shot after a year-long negotiation with the French Pyrenees sanctuary of Lourdes, is a clear-eyed recognition of the ultimately inscrutable role and power of religious faith, as told through the story of a young woman affected with multiple-sclerosis (an excellent Sylvie Testud) who visits Lourdes in an organised pilgrimage.
     Ms. Hausner's meticulously constructed, observational long takes, suggesting a documentary-trained filmmaker at work (nothing could be further from the truth), underline the way in which something as essentially personal as religion has become commoditised as a group event. The whole film develops as a sort of duel, or a dichotomy, between individuality and group, self and community. This is made all the more remarkable by the writer/director's decision of making her "heroine" someone who is not devoutly religious but merely "tags along" these trips as a way to get out and not feel sorry for herself. But the film accords an astounding sense of respect to its subjects, and the deliberate ambiguity of the narrative (progressing not so much through action but in unspoken, tacitly understood developments), makes Lourdes into a truly disquieting effort, asking difficult questions about a difficult subject in an objectively dispassionate yet subterraneanly vibrant way.

Starring Sylvie Testud, Léa Seydoux, Bruno Todeschini, Elina Löwensohn, Gilette Barbier, Gerhard Liebmann, Linde Prelog, Heidi Baratta.
     Directed and written by Jessica Hausner; produced by Martin Gschlacht, Susanne Marian, Philippe Bober; director of photography (Cinepostproduction processing), mr. Gschlacht; production designer, Katharina Wöppermann; costume designer, Tanja Hausner; film editor, Karina Ressler.
     A Coop 99 Filmproduktion/Essential Filmproduktion/Parisienne de Production/Thermidor Filmproduktion presentation/production, in co-production with ARTE France Cinéma and ZDF, with the participation of ORF and TPS Star, with the support of the Austrian Film Institute, Filmfonds Wien, Eurimages programme, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Midi-Pyrenees Region in association with the French National Centre for Cinema. (World sales, The Coproduction Office.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Medeia King 3 (Lisbon), April 20th 2011. 


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