Von Trotta’s Vision centres on visionary, influential heroine
by Gabriele Barcaro
“The producer chose the title, because it’s comprehensible in many languages,” explained Margarethe von Trotta, who may have preferred a different title for Vision [+see also:
film profile], her biography of Hildegard of Bingen, the German Christian mystic who during the Middle Ages came into direct contact with God and many powerful men of the time, not the least of which Barbarossa.
In fact, there are few “visions” in her new film, in competition at the Rome Film Festival. “To depict this in a non-banal manner, we would have needed a great video artist, but the budget was too small so I chose to show only the first vision, moreover without overdoing it”.
Which is probably for the best. Because without special effects and mystical apparitions (“which may have been a symptom of epilepsy,” said the director, embracing the theory of neurologist Oliver Sacks), the story of this nun – in many ways the most influential woman of the 12th century, “when women were not allowed to speak, except for God”) – who was close to popes and emperors but trapped by the ecclesiastic hierarchy, takes on a meaning that transcends merely the religious.
It is no surprise then that von Trotta – in the 1970s head of the New German Cinema and Golden Lion winner at Venice for The German Sisters – dreamt for over 20 years of adding Hildegard (who was also an author, scientist, musician, ante litteram physicist, and founder of several women’s monasteries) to the many women depicted in her films.
“Today, Hildegard would be a kind of Rosa Luxemburg”, added von Trotta, referring to another historical figure she brought to the big screen in 1986. Vision stars an icon of the filmmaker’s work, Barbara Sukowa, who creates a multi-faceted character simultaneously sweet and authoritative – her relationship with her pupil Richardis (Hannah Herzsprung of Four Minutes [+see also:
film profile]) is particularly beautiful – and, according to some, even too modern, capable of warming up an intentionally austere film, the director’s best in recent years.
(Translated from Italian)