Stations Of The Cross

*****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Stations Of The Cross
"Almost perfectly constructed... a stunning piece of filmmaking."

14 stations, 14 sections, 14 single takes, cut from a black title card to a black title card, one step after another.

14 year old Maria, due for confirmation, member of a sect called The Society of Saint Paul, a Catholicism that no longer recognises Rome as the Church since The Second Vatican Council, where the host is never handled, where music too frequently contains the Devil's rhythms, where confirmation is the passage to adulthood and conscription into the army of soldiers for God.

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Beautifully constructed, staged, acted, Kreuzweg is described by the Edinburgh International Film Festival's brochure as "a formal triumph"; this is an incredible exercise in constraint and restraint.

The camera moves in only three scenes, once on a technicality; the fourth station, "Jesus Meets His Mother", takes place within a car, the camera fixed such that driver and passenger are framed on the journey home from school. Each scene from first, Jesus Is Condemned To Death, to last, Jesus Is Laid In The Tomb, is framed and explained by its corresponding station.

This is a strict sect, Maria's mother is an observant member, and in dedication and devotion are sown the seeds of Maria's destruction. It is a seemingly inescapable fate, despite the interventions of church and state, of family and friends, a passage of fixed and measured pace but an inevitable progression. The staging is frequently clever, approaches to, from, and around the camera, neat blocking in a consultation with a doctor, the inclusion of clocks in frame on two occasions, consistent and seemingly genuine passage in the car journey. Dietrich and Anna Bruggeman's film is almost perfectly constructed, its criticisms and observations all neatly dovetailed.

As Maria, Lea van Acken is revelatory, possessed of a countenance at once despairing and angelic, heart-rending and alien. As her mother, Franziska Weisz manages to observe and not to see, to convey a righteous certainty which is all the more powerful when it collapses. Lucie Aron is the family's au pair Bernadette, Veronica among the stations, a voice that is contrast in a field of muted colours, emotions. Subtleties abound. To call it allegorical is almost to miss the extent to which it is grounded in observable fact and credibility, but to focus on the clarity of its depiction of the mundane is to miss the magic of faith.

Warned as they were by the progression through the first 11 stations, the title card for the twelfth, Jesus dies on the cross, brought a palpable hush to an already quietened audience. The camera seldom moves, but it carries watchers on a journey both temporal and spiritual, a stunning piece of filmmaking.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2014
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The story of a teenager whose family are Catholic fundamentalists.
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Director: Dietrich Brüggemann

Writer: Anna Br├╝ggemann, Dietrich Br├╝ggemann

Starring: Hanns Zischler, Franziska Weisz, Florian Stetter, Birge Schade, Ramin Yazdani, Lucie Aron, Lea van Acken, Moritz Knapp, Klaus Michael Kamp, Georg Wesch

Year: 2014

Runtime: 107 minutes

Country: Germany


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