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Lourdes
Directed by Jessica Hausner
Austria & France & Germany, 2009
Cornerhouse, 28 March 2010

Lourdes

One of those films – they are not necessarily French, though often are – where one gets the impression that the director is smarter or wiser or somehow more immune from tragedy than the characters on screen.

  Or feels or thinks that she or he is.  (Jessica Hausner wrote as well as directed Lourdes, incidentally.)

So here is how it goes: we follow a group of pilgrims, accompanied by a priest and nuns and carers, as they make their way to Lourdes to experience that place of miracles.

Some of the pilgrims are disabled and seeking a cure for their ailments – and, Lo, it seems that Christine (played by the excellent Sylvie Testud), a woman paralysed by multiple sclerosis, is suddenly able to walk and move her arms.  By no means is it clear, though, that this improvement will last.

If compelled to describe this film I’d say it was detached, sardonic, coldly observed, sour, gently (or rather slowly) excoriating with regard to human nature.  ‘Why me?’ is a question that each pilgrim asks him/herself and, when it seems as if one of their number has at last been cured, as though by a miracle, the question becomes ‘Why not me?’  Let us be in no doubt, the Grace of God is as mysterious in operation as the national lottery.

All told, a complex film if rather distanced.  But this is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it is rather to be admired.  Jessica Hausner, the director and writer, has a keen eye above all for people’s resentment and hopes dashed.  She is on the side of those not chosen.  I’d gladly watch Lourdes again, certain that I’d discover new things in it.

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