Let us now all worship Margarethe von Trotta

Let us now all worship Margarethe von Trotta

Drop what you’re doing and run to see Margarethe von Trotta‘s film about Hildegard von Bingen, Vision.

It’s a brilliant account of how a woman can manage to do her own thing under extremely adverse circumstances. There are so many things that haven’t changed for women since the 12th century, you’ll be thinking — but the film is fantastically positive, and doesn’t even end with death, as biopics always do, but with von Bingen’s another victory over illness and the birth of a slew of new plans for the future (pardon — ‘visions’).

Von Trotta has studied von Bingen closely, and every choice made in the film is based on some kind of historical record. No surprises here, von Trotta does the mad female bonding, female friendships and love, eroticism without sex and sex without physical contact brilliantly as always.

The most sensuous and playful sequence is the one where the sisters engage in a proto-opera! For the first time we see the main characters in silk gowns, with their hair revealed and decorated — Barbara Sukowa is a goddess, mein Gott — playing in von Bingen’s lyrical drama Ordo Virtutum. The Virtues fight and eventually win against the Devil for the protection of the Soul.

Here’s a fantastic interview on Medievalists.net with von Trotta about the making of the film and why von Bingen. The official films site is this. I’ve already rented three other von Trotta films which I haven’t seen, and I’m getting some Bingen music and books pronto. Believe it or not, this is THE feel-good-film-of-the-year.

Since von T is, in addition to being one of the most important film directors living, a gorgeous human being, a photo gallery for your perusal is HERE. The film is being screened at the TIFF Lightbox on King St — for screening times, consult the TIFF site. The film was first shown in Toronto during TIFF09.


9 thoughts on “Let us now all worship Margarethe von Trotta

  1. Ah, nuns… really, what’s not to like. Especially smart, sensitive, soulful, tough nuns. On a recent Rhine trip did have a little frisson passing her place.

    With you on Sukowa, really such an incredible actress and great to see her back on screens with such a fine director, von Trotta always seems to get the best out of her.. She was a huge star here in the UK since Berlin Alexanderplatz was THE TV series of the 80s.

    I must say though that faascinating as she was some of the more happy-clappy stuff turns me off. For a real nun superstar I much prefer Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz – Mexican writer and scholar and subject of a great film.. Yo, la peor de todas (I, the worst of all). When Hildy was knocking the dykes, Sor Juana was taking the piss out of the men condemning prostitutes when they use them themselves.

  2. I does help that Sor Juana lived, what, four or five centuries later? A Baroque chick, no less.

    The film is good, you recommend it? I always wondered about it — I feared that it was on a trashy-exploitative side, maybe because of the Boston Globe blurb they chose for the cover, about “lesbian passions seething behind convent walls” and so on. So I’m reading the synopsis here: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/i_the_worst_of_all/ and it says that Sor Juana gets an erotic muse who sends her “down a romantic road of startling passion and intensity.” Was that based on anything real? Von Trotta in her film based Hildy’s mad passion for the young novice Richardis von Stade on von Bingen’s letters and diaries… it’s apparently all in the records. I wonder if the Sor Juan liaison wasn’t just… invented?

    Her (mostly unverified) Wikipedia page doesn’t mention anything about that episode: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juana_Inés_de_la_Cruz

    (By the way, speaking of nuns… I always wondered about Karen Armstrong… Where would you put your money? A- or gay?)

  3. Karen Armstrong, oh really no idea though have heard her talk (no clues from appearance!) and read several of her books and have always been much impressed. Someone whose thoughts on religion I deeply respect.

    Re the film – I think it was done a great disservice by the US release packaging. It was touching and thoughtful and inspiring… I often find Rottentomatoes less reliable when assessing non-US films! the diretor was the wonderful María Luisa Bemberg, great Argentinian feminst and artist. As to the sister, well her letters to the Countess were pretty, err, straightforward: “That you’re a woman far away is no hindrance to my love: for the soul, as you well know, distance and sex don’t count.” She may have been writing in a different time and place (though I suspect there were not such great differences, 17th century Mexican church establishement was hardly a hotbed of radical thinking) but for me her admirable distaste for the more fantastical and ideological parts of Catholicism and a pragmatic concern with the rights of women (she was pretty distinterested in those of men!) make her easier to identify with.

    Of course we can never know if either of them ever crossed that line sexually, but it is clear they both did emotionally…

  4. How nice to see a young girl dance 😉 !
    Ladies are you sure there are not more important questions to answer in this world ? Let those sisters love whom they want. You are grown-up gals and not in need of role models, are you ?
    I nevertheless wonder what is more important – the emotional or the physical love… . Well, you certainly do not want to hear the answer to this from a catholic … 🙂 . peace be with you!

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