The glutinous rendition of Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ that kicks off Lourdes makes you wonder – are we in for mocking satire or pious uplift? Neither, as it turns out.
Austrianborn director Jessica Hausner’s Venice-winner subjects the much-visited French shrine to the Virgin Mary to a non-committal, almost documentary scrutiny – though one that’s not without its moments of sly humour.
Christine (a fierce, frail performance from Sylvie Testud) is a wheelchair-bound sufferer from multiple sclerosis who visits Lourdes less out of faith than by way of a fresh holiday destination. (She decides she prefers Rome, as it’s “more cultural”.)
Hausner subtly sketches in the characters involved – the pilgrims, the carers, the bemused but conscientious resident priest – and the tensions and jealousies that thrive in Lourdes’ hothouse atmosphere, without ever showing her hand.
Disneyland for the credulous, or miracle-working shrine? We’re left to make up our own minds on that one.
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