Lourdes – Day Two – Cinema Interuptus: The Nigredo, Eating an Elephant, or Too Big a Rat

An interesting pair, or an odd couple?  What are they thinking?                  [©Coop 99 Films-2009]

Welcome to Part Three of this series, which is a certain kind of critical analysis of Austrian director/writer Jessica Hausner’s 2009 film Lourdes.  Part one of the series Prologue to a Posy, lays out in some detail the genesis of the project and outlines its basic method, which is a kind of one-man version of film critic Roger Ebert,’s Cinema Interruptus.  Part Two of this series Day One: The Wheelchair is No Barrier to Desire, takes us through approximately the first twenty five minutes of the film, to the end of the first full day in in-movie time.  If you haven’t done so I suggest that you back track and start this series from the beginning.

What you will be seeing, reading, will be something that looks a bit like the full screenplay of the movie, transcribed from the screen by me, with commentary, informal micro-essays, and observations interspersed between the dialogue and description.  The biggest problem I foresee with this format is a breakdown in the narrative flow of the movie, or a basic incoherence, which seems hard to get around, especially when working within the constraints of this blogging platform.  I’ll do my best to make improvements if readers are having difficulty in the comprehension department.  For typos and other grammar specific errors we at the Meme Merchants Consortium prefer you to use the Comment Form on our Contact Page, this prevents the Comments section from getting cluttered up.

So far, I’ve logged one comment and it is worthy of repeating.  From WondersInTheDark:

This is really audacious, wow! I will need to look at this and get back with a better response. But I certainly do like what you are doing here, ww. This as my favorite film of 2010:

I appreciate the compliment.  Audacious is of course a word that can cut in two directions.  This project, because of the unique and demanding nature of the process, has a high potential for failure, for many reasons, mental exhaustion being one of them.

Eating an Elephant

This project is becoming a sort of elephant.  An old boss of mine once said of large projects, “There’s only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time.”  True maybe, but at the same time, if you know snakes, or have ever kept one as a pet you will also know that for a snake the act of eating is a race between digestion and putrefaction.  If you are a snake and eat too large of a rat you die from sepsis [coincidentally, or ironically, according to Chinese astrology I am a snake].  We’ll have to see how much of the pressure to complete the project in its entirety I can stand – or if anyone really cares enough to read it all.

For me, the process of transcribing the movie from the screen takes me five minutes, or more, of keyboard time for each minute of screen time.  A twenty-minute segment of movie comes in at about 6,000 words.  All of the analysis, editorializing, hyperlinking, editing; gathering, editing, and inserting of images adds enormously to this.  Each one of these segments is taking several full days of effort to pull together – as roughly put together as they are.

For your reference I have put together a character list and a list of some possible themes and discussion topics, lenses as I put it, for your consideration.  These are located all the way at the bottom of this post and will be there for subsequent installments.

Warning!                                      [CCA – Tim Davies]

Spoiler Alert! – Once More

Again, this is your polite warning that what follows will almost certainly prevent you from fully enjoying the film.  So, now is really the perfect moment, if you haven’t already, to go out and watch Lourdes for yourself.  I would hate to be the one to ruin that experience for you.  I hope you enjoy it, it seems to be on a significant number Top 10 lists for 2010 among people who are really serious about cinema.

So to back to work…

First, something about the music.

After spending several hours transcribing this segment of film from the screen the day before, without doing any other thinking or writing about it, as I prepared for the day’s writing session I started to watch the movie again from the very beginning just to get myself back in the proper state of mind for what was to follow.  I was once again struck to the core by the emotional power of the opening sequence, and specifically how the music shifts the emotional center of the movie to a higher plane.  There are some moments during the movie when I felt the music was maybe getting a little heavy handed, and maybe the music score isn’t worthy of a major award [I’ll defer to the musicologists on that one] but I think it was probably worthy of a nomination.  I think the music, and the sound design as well, were as a whole very well put together

So, right off the bat here are a couple of new things to pay attention to, firstly in regard to the musical score and secondly the sound design.  It is very nice how completely the music is scripted into the film and its action, for instance the coincidence at the entrance of our first Malade at the first verse of the Ave Maria.  These synchronizations occur through out the film and in particular are something to watch for in today’s segment.

A second aspect of the music to keep track of is how effectively it is used throughout the movie to link the continuity of scenes on an emotional level and acts as a kind of emotional buffer to the action.  I think, on the one hand, it helps to keep you from drifting off during the many longer shots where there is very little action, or shocked out of your emotional sensibility when something changes unexpectedly.  The sonic ‘bed’ of this movie is quite cushy.

For the first three-quarters of the film, it is all sacred music, and a lot of very spacious, ethereal organ music, you know, church music.  Than in and of itself automatically sets the contemplative mood for much of the film.  Most of the singing is in Latin [Greek too maybe, since its liturgical], which has an interesting effect, at least for me.  Because I don’t speak Latin, and even my aural-comprehension of French is lacking enough that I really can’t pick much out of songs that I do not already know well, this situation has a particular effect for me, which is that the words being sung cannot transmit any linguistic information only emotional information.  New channels in the brain start to open up when the brain, even subconsciously, is trying to parse language out of a sonic structure – and can’t.  These channels that open up spontaneously can shift a listeners experience into surprising new dimensions [higher or lower].  I call this the trans-linguistic effect.  This is the function of sacred languages [or spirit languages] by many cultures, traditions, and religions.

This is a point that Wygart elaborated upon some time ago in his essay Dark is the Night Cold is the Ground:  The significance of the non-semantic in the spiritual experience.   Maybe you will want to check that essay out at some point.  If you want a quick listen to another dramatic example of this phenomenon – in French – I posted a follow up to Wygart’s essay Voices of the Spirits:  The Magic of Musical Recursion which features a live-loop performance by Cyrille Aimée in a jazz/pop idiom.  You will also get a real treat if you do not know Cyrill Aimée.  In any case, do check out as you watch and listen how the degree to which you understand the words of what is being sung changes your experience of the music and your experience of the film.

Another thing to keeps tab on, towards the end of the film is the shift from sacred music to popular music.  More on this point, if I can remember, at a the appropriate time.

As I have been doing more research I have come up with a little more information on one of our locations.  In the previous installment I spent some time wondering about the nature of the facility where the Maltesers, at least the malades, were staying.  I did discover that the location used in the film was in Vienna; however I found out during the day’s research and writing that the facility, that for lack of a better term I had settled on calling a hospice, seems to have been modeled on the Accueil Notre Dame and the Accueil Marie St. Frai, in Lourdes.  I don’t have a better translation for the French word ‘accueil’ other than ‘public hospitality facility’; however, the function described seem very close to a nursing home or hospice.  So, I will be keeping the term hospice for the facility, but in the spirit of the more ecclesiastical setting, I’m scrapping the use of the word dining room and replacing it with refectory, and will update the previous installment.


Written and Directed by

Jessica Hausner


Not behind the ear!                                                                                                 [©Coop 99 Films-2009]


We see Christine and Maria from behind while regarding themselves in the bathroom  mirror.  Seated in her wheelchair, from our point of view Christine’s head is cut off below the nose.  Maria is brushing Christine’s hair.  Christine watches Maria’s work attentively lifting her chin to examine herself more closely and see the rest of her own face.  Maria arranges one lock behind Christina’s ear.

This scene is another great example of Martin Gschlacht’s techniques of filming a character of from behind, over her shoulder, where some part of her is in some dramatic way hidden or obscured, or in a mirror – all at once.  How often in a movie do you see the female protagonist’s face from the nose up?  We see Christine’s face whole only when she strains to lift her chin to see better herself.  This technique if nothing else give the audience the palpable experience of a life spent in a wheelchair – but very subtly.

     Ah, not over the ear.

We see Maria rearrange the lock.

                          CHRISTINE – CONTINUED

We see Christine examine herself again, with a little more satisfaction.

     You like it?
     The earrings?

There’s a kind of distracting shift of focus here from Christine’s face in the mirror to Maria, probably unavoidable do to depth of field limitations, but I’m particularly interested in seeing Christine’s whole reaction to the situation.

Do you find yourself, with shots like this, preferring the reflection to the object?  I seem to notice this tension a lot.  And also Gschlacht’s’s predilection for filming the protagonist over her shoulder or from behind where we tend to see her in rear half-profile or reflected in the other characters.

We see Maria smile with a trace of embarrassment, fetch the earrings and put the first one on Christine.

It seems obvious that Christine cares about her appearance, probably more now today than on many other days.  She wants to look her best for Kuno maybe?  Still, she is presenting herself as she is normally: young, girlish, earrings, yes, but almost no makeup and her hair put back in a pony-tail rather than brushed out.  Nothing’s really changed in the way she sees herself.

There is an irony here that Christina is dependent on someone who is turning into her rival for Kuno’s attention is the one she needs help from in prettying herself up.  Of course this is also just another day in the life of Christine.  She is always dependent on someone to perform all of even these minor tasks.  Nothing can ever be exactly as you might want to do it yourself; and of course, since you do essentially nothing for yourself in the first place, you never get the satisfaction of having done something well, or for yourself.

     You had fun last night?

We see Maria, continue on to the earring on the opposite side without replying and with an.

Was this a gibe at Maria by Christine?  Was she feeling Maria out to see if she was involved with one of  the Boys, or just making conversation?  Maria didn’t seem to take it in a way that she felt she could answer.  Christine is aware of the potential rivalry between them, but it seems Maria isn’t – yet.

       CUT TO:


We follow Cécile with our eyes from a standing height walking around the refectory headed our way.  It is breakfast time and we hear the murmurs of breakfast table chit chat and the clinks of plates and glasses.  She checks in a concerned and friendly way with various pilgrims as she strolls, smiling.

Cécile seems to be in a very good mood this morning.   We see a flash of Maria’s face to one side in foreground

                            [to a pilgrim]
                            [to Christine]
     Careful, its hot.
                         [to another pilgrim]
     Good morning. Are you well?
                             [to Cécile]
     Yes, thanks.

We see Cécile move on, then stop, almost start to go again, and then, smiling, turn to address Christine who is off camera.

                      [to Christine, off camera] 
     Is everything all right with you?  Do you like it here?

Cécile is attentive, kind, and relaxed and wholly focused on Christine.

I had a strange dream.                                                                                           [©Coop 99 Films-2009]

                            CHRISTINE – V.O.
                              [to Cécile]
     I had a strange dream.

We see Cecile raise her eyebrow slightly in interest or curiosity.


We see Christine sitting at her table from over her right shoulder as Christine recounts her dream.

                         CHRISTINE – CONTINUED.
                             [to Cécile]
     I dreamed that I was paralyzed, 
     [smiles a little] 
     and that the Virgin Mary appeared and said something to me, 
     but I didn’t understand very well what she said.  
     So, I got up and moved closer.  
     And it was then that I noticed I was no longer paralyzed.

We see Christine give a slightly embarrassed smile.

Christine recounts her dream in a bemused and semi-serious kind of way, smiling slightly, not at all as if she had experienced some type of mystical apparition.  For Christine at that moment it was just a strange dream, a dream like many others, it didn’t appear to have any great significance to her.

                            [to Christine]
     It’s not easy, I know.  
     But we must learn to accept our fate with humility.
     We pray for the healing of the soul, not the body.  
     And, the suffering you bear can have a deep meaning.

We see Christine become slowly deflated by Cécile’s words.

This was pretty inappropriate of Cécile any way you slice it, she just completely invalidated Christine’s experience.  How rude.  Here in this case we see she has dropped the ball – and she was doing so well till this point.  It’s an important point, all of Hausner’s characters get the fully human treatment, they may start out as stock ‘characters’, as archetypes, and they might have important functions at those levels, but by the end of the movie, everyone has their moments of pure humanity: grace and sin; success and failure.  This happens to be one of Cécile’s moments where she lets us down a bit.

In this transaction Cécile misses the boat entirely, and instead of recognizing, at minimum, that this was Christine’s subconscious talking to her in her dream, even if it wasn’t the Virgin Mary and recognizing it as such; instead Cécile goes into full scale psychological projection mode, and spackles over Christine’s rather innocent [if prescient] dream, with the subconscious hopes and fears about her own condition [more on that later].


We see Cécile with a distant, other worldly expression framed against the windows of the dining room.

Here we get to see, for almost the only time during the course of the movie, Cécile’s interior experience projected to the outside world.  Both Christine and Cécile’s are similar in that they are very internal people, its important to notice when they are showing their inner faces to the outer world.

                            CÉCILE – CONT.
     Paul said, “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, 
     and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions
     for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.” 

What is important to recognize at the moment is that Christine doesn’t seem to see the content of her dream as being directly relevant to her or her experience, and Céciles missive doesn’t come as particularly welcome instruction on the subject.

Cécile’s performance in her rather insensitive ‘take down’ of Christine’s dream experience is also an example of what, for rhetorical sake, I might call ‘Catholic Crime’ the mistaking of the broader picture the for the local picture, the ‘Catholic picture’ the Volkergedanken  [to use Adolph Bastian’s terminology] for the more elementary and universal conception the Elementargedanken.  Within the context of a Catholic devote and a Catholic pilgrimage it is understandable that that kind of mistake can be made, it is still a mistake – and rude.

I am impressed that Hausner and Löwensohn both give this rendition of Saint Paul such a sympathetic and evenhanded treatment, whatever their personal views might be.  To my mind, the performance is very true to the way a Catholic with some sophistication about their Catholicism might render it.  Cécile it seems has really spent some time with this issue.  Hausner also to her credit, doesn’t feel the need to instantly counter or comment on this statement or the transaction between the two characters – unlike some other contemporary directors.

For instance in Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s 2010 film version of Tatiana de Rosney’s best selling novel Sarah’s Key; which has been under scrutiny lately here, there is a moment of what seems to in the Meme Merchants way of thinking the antithesis of this cinematographic self-restraint.  In that movie, which is ostensibly dealing with issues of French anti-Semitism there is a scene where a French woman shouts a shockingly anti-Semitic taunt to a group of French Jews who are being rounded up for eventual deportation, but that taunt is immediately shouted down by her neighbor.  This scene could have been true to life [who knows], but it smacked strongly of directorial interference.  This move by Paquet-Brenner probably cost a half a star for that one move, it smacks of intellectual disingenuousness.

Hausner’s cinematographic self-restraint places a large burden upon the audience to evaluate for themselves the significance and validity of all that is going on in the film.  I really appreciate that.  Another item not to loose sight of, as I propose more and more questions, is that Hausner’s loose and open ended approach to the interpretation to the movie is that it not only allows us our own personal interpretation, it allows multiple simultaneous interpretations.  So, even if I have proposed a long list of various this vs that’s, multiple states are allowed to be true at any given time.

Cécile’s quote of Paul is not with out its merits on its own.  Suffering, and suffering leading to despair are central themes of being human.  The Paulian ideas about faith, suffering and the church were seminal ideas for Christianity.  Pauls solution to suffering is to transform it into meaning via faith, faith in a particularly Catholic way via conception of the body of Christ, the Church and the Christian being essentially one, or elements of the same whole.  This is not necessarily a bad way to do it, it does work if you apply the program properly, especially if you are a Catholic and you see yourself as somehow following in the lineage of the great saints of the past – but it only works if you remain inside the Catholic conceptual framework. Once you’ve strayed from the Catholic conceptual framework the method starts breaking down.  More on this when I get around to tackling saintliness more directly.  The mistake in this situation only comes when you project this process on another person unwittingly.

We do learn an an enormous amount about Cécile in this transaction, one thing is that if she hadn’t committed this faux pas, we would probably never have found out so much about her.  The other is the depth and seriousness which she takes her religion, and the yard stick by which she measures herself, and that she needs some restraint in using it as a measure of others.  Cécile seems to be measuring herself on the more traditional yardstick of the path of sainthood.  Not many choose that path.  Fewer are chosen.

More on the of the path of sainthood a little later.


We see Christine give a slight, polite smile, then turn away.

We see as we pan slightly the others seated at the table: the Helper Sonja, the wheelchair bound and elderly Monsieur Hruby, and Maria on the right end.

Everyone sitting at the table has been very quiet, but they were listening.

                              M. HRUBY
                    [to the ladies at the table]
     If I told you what I dreamed about last night.

We see M. Hruby bite off a chunk of bread and start to chew.  Maria and Sonja make restrained laughs at the impolite joke.

Here was a nice bit of humor to defuse the tension of the previous scene, even as people would do in life.  It was theatrically correct and also very naturalistic, very true to life.  We may not be sure if we like Monsieur Hruby, but even he will have his moments of vulnerability and humanity later.  And the way Walter Benn bites of that chunk of bread!! very well done.


We see Kuno coming into view around the corner of one of the lobbies mirrored columns energetically as he puts on his beret, checking himself in the mirror as he goes.  In the foreground Maria does her best impersonation of Cécile as she adjusts Christine’s signature red rain-hat and powder blue jacket.

                        [as he passes by]
     [to Maria] Bonjour.
     [to Christine] Bonjour.

We see both Maria and Christine turn their heads simultaneously to give their full attention to Kuno as he walks by them.

                      [to Kuno, with a smile]

This seems to be the moment when both women become aware of their mutual interest in Kuno.  Everything starts to change between them after this.

We see, Maria lean down to unlock the wheels on Christina’s wheel chair, with a broad smile looks at Kuno.  For a moment both young women’s faces are framed against each other all eyes on Kuno.  The two: Helper and malade, move forward with smiles on their faces.  Still looking at Kuno.

Christine, she’s still just a woman, not a handicap or a disease.  Does it seem a little strange that she should be displaying such an obvious attraction to Kuno when there is an able-bodied woman at hand?

We see Maria pushes Christine forward and come even with Sonja and M. Hruby.  Sonja leans in towards Maria.

                            [to Sonja]
     Do you think he’s married?
                  [leaning close to Maria’s ear]
     Who cares?

We see Christine’s change of expression as she overhears the two Helpers, it wipes the smile right off of her face.

Madame Carré gets a plan                                                                                     [©Coop 99 Films-2009]


We see Biddy One and Biddy Two facing each other chatting.  Between them in the background stands Mme. Carré listening, Cécile with her umbrella guidon, behind, and Our Neon Lady of Lourdes watches the whole thing.

Lourdes seems to be, in a way, like Italy, you can’t go anywhere or do anything that isn’t under the watchful eye of Jesus from the cross, Our Lady of Lourdes is almost omnipresent in this movie in the same way.  How many different metaphors is she a stand-in for, besides in this case the abstract notion of being witnessed?

                         BIDDY TWO – V.O.
                          [to Biddy One]
     During the blessing there have been healings too.
                            BIDDY ONE
                          [to Biddy Two]
     You are going too far now.
                            BIDDY TWO
     Not at all!  
     When the priest passes with the sanctum, 
     and he stops to bless them, sometimes people are healed.

We see Mm. Carré overhearing the conversation between the two Biddies.  In the background we see Cécile with her little red umbrella/torch, leading the group out the door as she did yesterday.

                             BIDDY ONE
                       [as she turns away]
     Don’t believe everything your told.
                             BIDDY TWO
     We’ll see.

We see Mme Carré pensive as she follows the group out.  Our Neon Lady of Lourdes is watching.

Here once again the Two Biddies perform their basic function as Greek chorus by instigating in Mme Carré, what will turn out to be plot changing move by her and that ultimately transforms both her and Christine.  Mme. Carré has just been activated, even if she isn’t sure yet what she is going to do.  Oddly, she reminds me a little of the character Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars, though without the heavy comic overtones, both character’s function similarly in that their basically good nature and naiveté allow themselves to unwittingly become tools of others’ ideas or plans, in plot drivingly significant ways.  Maybe you can think of some other examples of characters like this, who are a little less absurd [than Binks].


MUSIC CUE:  Trumpet Fanfare

We see from high up, across the swift river Gave de Pau and the broad new pedestrian bridge, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.  The ‘Upper Church’, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is nearly at our level on the other side of the river.  The domed Basilica of our Lady of the Rosary is nestled between the fantastic double set of curved flying stairways that reach out like a pair of  arms from the level of the Upper Church down to the plaza, the Rosary Square, below at our feet.

We see the flags of many nations leading a procession of pilgrims across the bridge and into the Sanctuary.  We hear the sound, blaring over public address systems, trumpet calls and drums of a martial fanfare.

This is, by the way, the Blessed Sacrament Procession, which normally takes place at 4:30 in the afternoon.  It’s interesting to note that the priest and the blessed Sacrament are omitted from the shot; the entire point of this procession is to transport the recently consecrated Host to the Basilica of St. Pius X.


We see a wide view from the end of the Sanctuary mall opposite the Upper Church and Basilica of the Rosary.  Thousands of pilgrims, mostly Maltesers it seems, are making their way up the mall with the flags of their nations, they are turning crossing the mall and heading back towards the underground Basilica of Pius the X, off screen to our left.  There are many, pilgrims in wheel chairs, and three wheeled little pull-cart ambulances.

MUSIC CUE:  “Antiphons”  Soloist

Here is another instance where we as an audience are being lead somewhere, but we’re not quite sure where.  We see the pilgrims progressing along and exiting off screen, but there is no shot to establish where they are disappearing to.


MUSIC CUE:  Choir joins, over PA

We see pilgrims making their way slowly towards an as yet unknown destination down a very dark and unrelieved concrete hallway.  The religious music that has been playing continues but sounds very tinny in the public address system speakers.  The group comes to a halt at a turning of the way.  The sound of the chorus swells in our ears.

We see Cécile, in her dark cape and white veil turn to look back at us.  She is singing, and smiles as she catches someone’s eye [Christine?].  The verse ends, and Cécile turns away as the pilgrims progress continues.


The scene is very mysterious, in a slightly threatening way.  The singing of the antiphons are trying to establish that this is something sacred and wonderful we are being lead towards, if fact the central mystery of Catholicism the celebration of the holy Mass and sacrament of the Eucharist.  The setting is rather dismal though; this passageway looks like it could be leading into the bowels of the Super Dome.  This setting tends to have the effect of inverting the mythology here, intentionally or unintentionally.  Is Cécile our guide to towards the place of salvation, or is she the Hermetic psychopomp leading us toward Charon’s boat?


We see Kuno directing one of the malades and his Hospitaller helper.  In the background behind are a few Maltesers with their red flag with the white Maltese cross.  We hear only the sound of a crowd of people in a large space.

We see Maria pushing Christine roll up to Kuno as he is standing there to ask for directions.  Christina is a little out, or ahead, of the action as Maria takes the opportunity to flirt for a moment with Kuno.  She smiles broadly as she rolls Christina away.

MUSIC CUE:  “Antiphons” Soloist


MUSIC CUE:  Soloist, chorus joins

We see a view from nearly the center of the basilica, shaped like the vesica piscus, towards one of its ends three hundred feet away.  The sanctuary is brightly lit, but it is underground and has almost no natural light or view to the outside – it is in fact underground.  Its naked concrete columns and beams fly overhead like the ribcage of a giant.  There are thousands of pilgrims in many ranks surrounding the central platform from where the priests administer the mass and conduct the benediction.

Well, unfortunately the space we come out into isn’t that awe inspiring either; which is not the problem of the moviemakers or course, but I’m sure it was a problem for them.  The underground, Basilica of St, Pius X is about as perfect example of modernist French brutalist architecture of the 1950’s and 60’s as you are likely to find – and very disappointing for a church.  There is much to be said about the faults of this particular building and the challenges it imposed upon the filmmakers, and some possible advantages.  As a sometimes audio engineer this space filly my ears with horror – good thing there is no dialogue here.

Is there something to be gleaned from the situation about how this building affects the experience and the interpretation of the mythological structure of the Mass as it relates to the movie?  The central mystery of Catholicism and Christianity is the death and resurrection of Christ and the promise of eternal life.  Here we find ourselves suddenly in a gigantic concrete building that tends to make us feel like we are trapped inside the ribcage of a giant – or a giant Christ.  Like it or not, this space forces you to confront the notion of death, your own illness, hopes of a cure from within a setting where there is almost nothing visible of the promise of heaven beyond, as is so typical of most other Catholic church buildings.  This situation is highly ironic considering that the architects of the French High Gothic brought to a kind of perfection, at places like Chartres, Amiens, and Reims. the dematerialization of structure and the bringing into the interior world of stone the variegated light of heaven.

This completely contrary, cave-like space, actually tends to support what is about to transpire in an interesting way.  We expect the Mass to uplift us; we expect to see a glimpse of heaven through the Mass; we hope to have heaven brought to earth in the Eucharist;  we hope for a miracle;  we expect the sanctuary the mass is conducted in to support all of this.  None of those hopes or expectations is going to be fulfilled today.

It is also interesting to note that Gschlacht chose to address the image of the crucified Jesus himself only tangentially, though he lavishes great attention on the priests and the Eucharist in its monstrance.

Another point that comes out in this shot, is the overwhelming scale of the event.  The nave of the Basilica is 191m [627ft] long, and 61m [200ft] wide and can contain 25,000 worshipers.  Its almost impossible not to disappear our protagonists entire group into the crowd.


We from above see Christine in her red hat lost in the crowd, some distance from the stage.  From a few aisles away Mm. Carré spots Christine.

Watch for the red hat in the crowd.


We see the priests on the steps of the platform kneeling towards the altar.  The host in its monstrance, guarded by two angels awaits the serving of the Eucharist.  Malteser priests holding bowls of incense flank the alter to the side.

I’m not Catholic, but as a ritual operator I can see the significance of the priests facing the mystery, instead of standing back to it facing the congregation.  We all face the same mystery together; no one can really explain it for you.

Notice Saint Bernadette poking her head out from around one of the columns, watching us.  Jesus is out of the shot.


We hear the sound of:  Shhhh!  The assembly grows quiet.  The priest ascends to the altar


We see a view of Maria and Sonja sharing private laughs together. Mme Carré, has her eyes on someone.  Others of our Malteser pilgrims, including the Two Biddies are in the background.

                        PRIEST [call] – V.O.
                      [in English over the PA]
    Jesus your love is our law.

We see Mme. Carré thinking to her self then start to stand up.

Mme. Carré has a plan; for Maria and Sonja its just girl-talk.  It also seems we have shown up on the day when English is the lingua franca for the Basilica.  As an American and native English speaker, I experienced this as jarring.

                        PRIEST [response] – V.O.
                        [in English over the PA]
     Lord, we love thee.
     Lord we love you.


As the litany continues, we see Christine parked in her wheelchair amongst the congregation and her Malteser compatriots.  Cécile is out of sight.

We see Mme. Carré come up to Christine, unlock the wheels of her chair and wheel her away, down towards the altar. Christine doesn’t show any reaction or change of expression at being kidnapped like this.  Maria notices the transaction, but does nothing.

We see as Mme. Carré wheels Christine along, Christine look around her, curious but not excited as she is wheeled all the way to the front row..

We see the intrepid pair as they arrive at the very front row and Mme. Carré snaps the brakes back on, unfold her own little seat and sits down.  This seems to attract no comment from her neighbors.

Kidnapped again; I wonder where I’m going this time?  A day in the life of Christine, she takes it very well our doughty heroine.  She has just been granted front a front row seat, but what is her attitude about this treat?  Curiosity?

                         PRIEST [call] – V.O.
     You said, “who ever believes in me shall live.”


We see the priests standing together at the altar.  One priest removes the monstrance with the eucharistic host in its glass window from its base and hands it to the officiating priest, then cue the two other priests into action.  We hear the jingling of chimes.

We see the officiating priest turn towards the congregation displaying the Eucharist Host in its monstrance.  Two other priests decorously take the hems of the head priest’s robes

MUSIC CUE:  Kyrie eleison – soloist

We see the head priest displaying the Eurharist to the assembly, then descend.

MUSIC CUE:  Kyrie eleison – add chorus

Ritual theater at its finest.  It is sacred, and it is holy, but it is also theatre and can be analyzed in that way.  People have been doing this sort of thing since thousands of years B.C.  What we now call ‘theater’ comes directly from religious ritual spectacle, up to the Greeks, at least, there really wasn’t a formal distinction between the two.

Here if we notice is another example of a person holding the power, not necessarily holding the spotlight.  The priest we see in this scene who has the plan, and the authority to cue the actions of the other priests does not himself take place in the front row of the ritual procession.

Once again the music here, as abysmal as the acoustics of the place are, carries a huge weight in both the mass and the movie.


We see Christine observing something of interest off to her left.  Mme Carré is behind her deep in prayer.


We see the wheelchair bound malade Anna and her mother again.  Also parked in the front row of the assembly.  The mother on her knees, and with hands clasped together tightly in prayer, is looking fixedly at the approaching Eucharist and its escort.  Anna herself, in her trademark sweater and crocheted cap, seems completely absent, staring at the ground, her head nodding off to one side.

Another heartbreaking shot of Anna and her Mother.  Anna is not having a good day.  She too has managed front row seating, but she is oblivious.  So this is the Christine’s eye view of events as they roll slowly towards her.  In this case she gets to be the witness for Anna’s experience.


We see a wider shot of the procession as it makes its way down the aisle towards us.

We see the priests stop, turn and bless a very wheelchair bound malade from another group.  Knights and dames of the Order are in the background.

Again a great shot of the priest and the sanctum, but the crucifix behind is lost in a blur.  This is a bit unusual in a film characterized by highly compressed shots with miles of depth of field.

We see the priests turn and proceed down the aisle towards us.


We see Anna continue to stare at the floor insensible to the proceedings.  Her mother kneels with hands clasped in desperate devotion as the priests pass by in front of the two, turning to face them as they go by.

Calling down God, Anna and her mother.                                                         [©Coop 99 Films-2009]

If a mothers love could call God down from heaven and invoke a miracle by force of desperation and love for her sick child, it would have happened here.  But God* does not work that way.  “God is free.”

It’s a great shot though.  One of the best in the movie; it’s another one of Gschlacht’s interposing shots where we see the Mother appear and disappear as she is framed between the gaps in the robes of the priests as the pass her by.

We see the priests stop, turn in front of Anna.

Ah, something worked after all, the priest at least have stopped for Anna.


We see the head priest as he raises the monstrance with the Eucharist and blesses the congregation and Anna with great solemnity.

We see as the priests pass by, Anna’s mother looking relieved.  Anna remains indifferent and continues staring at the ground.  Anna’s mother crosses herself.


We see Christine and a wheelchair bound lady sitting next to her watching the approach of the priests, they are next.  Christine turns her head to watch as they start to pass by.

We see the Priest from a wide shot to one side as they are passing Christine and Mme Carré by, not even slowing down.

CUT MUSIC:  We see as the camera slowly centers on Christine, her turn her head and watch impassively as the priests disappear from view.  As the shot continues to drift to the left we see Mme Carré, disappointed, enter the edge of the shot.

We see Christine look down into her lap.

Even if Christine didn’t appear to be expecting anything special to happen, when she recognizes that nothing special did happen for her she still experiences some disappointment.


We see the priests, the monstrance held aloft as they proceed off into the distance.

                      PRIEST [call] – V.O.
                    [in English over the PA]
     Jesus you are our faith.
                    PRIEST [response] – V.O.
     Jesus you are our faith.


We see Christine, pensive and a little dejected, sitting in her wheelchair to one side of the shot.

     Jesus you are our hope.

We see Christine look away from us, her eyes hidden by the brim of her hat, back towards Anna and Mother.

Christine it seems is starting to identify with Anna and her predicament in a conscious way.

                         PRIEST [call] – V.O.
                       [in English over the PA]
     Jesus you are our salvation.


We see Anna has not changed position or expression.  Anna’s mom has retreated into some deep interior place.

                       PRIEST [response] – V.O.
     Jesus you are our salvation.

We see Anna’s Mom open her eyes and look up towards the altar, clutching her breast.

Faith is hard.


We see Cécile standing pensively at a tall-boy cocktail table in the lobby, with the little souvenir shop in the background.  She has a half finished orange drink on the table and is playing with her pen.  A pilgrim in the background draws our attention to the image of St. Bernadette on display in the shop window.

What is on Cécile’s mind?  As internal a person as she is, its hidden away, seems deep though.

We see Christine and Mme Carré entering in the background, and come around the corner to go past Cécile.  Cécile notices the diad arrive and turns to address them.

                           [to Christine]
     Ah, voila. [Here she is,] the eager one, 
                [comes out from around her table] 
     but it won’t do you any good.

We see Cécile approach Christine and Mme Carré.

                            CÉCILE – CONT.
                            [to Christine]
     Do you really think God would heal someone, 
     just because they pushed in the front of the others?

We see Cécile come along side Christine’s wheelchair and look down at Christine to address her.  Christine looks up at her.  In the background Kuno comes around the corner behind them.

                             [to Christine]
     In the future, please don’t move away from the rest of the group.

Uh oh, a scolding from Cécile.  Unfortunately she is scolding the wrong person, as if it was Christine’s decision to move away from the group.  Mme. Carré fails to stick up for Christine – double fault on the play.

We see Mme. Carré, look away slightly. We see Kuno and Cécile glance at each other as he passes by.

                             KUNO – V.O.
                  [to The Boys, Marie and Sonja]
     Was it fun last night?

We see, as Mme Carré starts to wheel Christine away that she looks pensive, looking inward.  Christine and Cécile glance at the action off screen.

                             FRANK – V.O.
                              [to Kuno]
     She doesn’t remember!


We see Frank, Max, Sonja and Maria sitting along the bar, flirting and teasing each other.  Kuno is standing to one side facing them.  Sonja is smoking and everyone is having a good time.

                 [reaching over and slapping at Max]
                    [to Max, looking at the girls]
     The girls have gotten to you.
                     [to Kuno, looking at Maria]
     Of course they have!

Kuno, is making an observation of the situation, but doesn’t do anything about it, at least not in front of the Girls.  Could be tact on his part, could be he doesn’t see this as part of his remit.

                           [to the Boys]
     Shall we go?

We see The Boys, Max and Frank get up and excuse them selves.  Frank forgets his Malteser beret on the bar.

                              THE BOYS
                           [to the girls]
     Caio!  Goodbye.
                             KUNO – V.O.
                             [to Frank]
     Your hat.

We see Frank turn and collect his beret from the bar.  The Girls regard the Boys as they leave.


We see Cécile crossing in front of Christine and Mme. Carré on her way over to the Girls.

 We see Cécile turn to face the Girls sitting at the bar, only Maria is visible.

                       [to the Maria, sternly]
     I suggest you concentrate more on your duties.  
     We are not here to have fun.

We see Cécile turn to go.  Maria makes a face.

We see in the background Mme. Carré wheels Christine towards us. As they come along side the Girls at the bar, Christine turns towards Maria and smiles.  Maria turns towards Christine to address her.

This is one of the pivotal crises in the movie, in my estimation.  The relationships of all of the characters particularly the triad:  Christine, Maria, and Mme Carré change radically after this.

There is a lot to be said about Cécile and her attitude here.  James Clark over at WondersInTheDark described Cécile as a “martinet”.  I have no idea where he got that idea.  A martinet is someone who pushes discipline and punishment to the point of absurdity, and even to the point of cruelty.  Lt Commander Queeg in The Caine Mutiny was a martinet, or became one.  Is Lt Cdr. Queeg somehow functionally similar to Cécile??? There is a huge amount that can be said for Cécile as a character, and Elina Löwensohn’s performance, both of which I though were pretty fantastic, other than to flatten her into that particular epithet.

In terms of the functioning of the organizational roles of this particular group of pilgrims Cécile is the ‘heavy’, as leader of the group it is her responsibility and her job to enforce discipline among the Accompagnateurs, especially in regards to the comfort and safety of the malades.  Maria and Sonja have been seriously slacking off, and Maria’s mislaying of Christina is a serious breach of responsibility, nothing came of it fortunately, but Maria should never have left her charge be wheeled off like that.

So, we may actually have more of a valid comparison to The Caine Mutiny than one might expect at first glance.  There is that traditional reading of Lt. Cdr. Queeg that he, as master of the vessel was doing more or less what he was supposed to be doing, enforcing discipline on his vessel, and was not getting the requisite support by his junior officers, and it was eventually his junior officers constantly undermining their commander that caused the Queeg to crack.  Cécile is no Queeg in my estimation, but her junior Helpers don’t seem to give her authority, or their own responsibilities any real respect.

Actually I can think of another comparison, maybe slightly more obtuse, which is the case of tugboat commander, Martinus Harinxma, in Jan de Hartog’s 1967 novel The Captain where the inexperienced young captain covers up for a personal friend after a severe mishap instead of reporting him for the sake of the safety of his ship and crew.  Martimus does the wrong thing; Cécile actually does the right thing by making a stern, but not out of bounds, on-the-spot correction.  Maria, as we see does not handle the situation with much emotional maturity.

Actually, the character of Cécile reminds me here, and more and more throughout the film, of Saint Teresa of Avila, one of my personal favorites, and the second dead, lady Catholic saint to start talking to me [there is a story there, but not today].

Widely regarded as a saint while she was still alive, Teresa de Jesus was one of the great mystical Catholic saints of her age and an author whose writings, especially those on contemplative prayer, have remained ever popular through to this day – and not just with Catholics – which is how I came into contact with them.  Her, Way of Perfection [1567] and The Interior Castle [1577] are classics.  Saint Teresa’s insight into contemplative prayer, the mystical experience, the human soul and the personal relationship to God* is rarely exceeded in the literature of any religion.

Teresa was a nun and a prioress and founder/reformer of her order of Discalced Carmelites; she was know for her tenderness, which comes out in her writings, and for her compassion, but she was also a little strict – but her strictness never lost touch with the ethical basis of the rule.  She also had a big personality, this is actually a key characteristic of the great saint, at least the ones we know much about with any veracity, they all had very big personalities, no matter how otherwise humble they may have been.

As prioress Teresa didn’t let the nuns placed in her care get away with too much, she had high standards, and made sure her nuns abided by them, and certainly didn’t allow them to fall into error.  Which when dealing with the mystical experience is a very easy thing to do.  This is the thing with her as a saint, Teresa had about every kind of mystical experience it was possible to have, but she never let that go to her head or lose perspective of what was important in her relationship with God.  She wrote rather explicitly that such “consolations” as she termed them, were gifts from God for those who were not strong enough to preserver in their vocation without them, not a sign of sanctity.  Interesting.

So, it happens that I see a lot of this come out in certain aspects the character of Cécile, and the portrayal of her by Elina Löwensohn.  My own psychological projection perhaps.  I will continue to elaborate on this as we continue.

                        [to Mme Carré, pissy]
     Where have you been?

We see Mme Carré turns her head to Maria, then look away.

Maria unfortunately also does the wrong thing and takes her misfortune out on Christine and Mme. Carré.  Shame and embarrassment can be a pretty stiff cocktail.

                    [to Christine, conciliatory]
     Are you glad to be here?  It was lovely wasn’t it?

Sonja tries to patch things up and be polite.


We see Christine as rolls past Sonja

                         SONJA – CONT.-V.O.
                           [to Christine]
The blessing was lovely don’t you think?

We see Christine turn her head politely towards Sonja.  Off to the side just at the edge of the shot, Maria jostles Mme. Carré out of the way and takes charge of Christine’s wheelchair and starts to roll her away.

Again, not being very mature.  Maria vacillates like this from here on out, wanting nothing to do with Christine, but then cutting in at inopportune moments for mostly selfish reasons.

                      [to Sonja, rolling away]
     Yes, it was fine. Thanks.


We see Mme Oliveti and Cécile sitting at lunch together in the dining room of the hospice.  Mme Oliveti looks over at Cécile, who is picking at her food, with some concern.

                            MME. OLIVETI
     Are you feeling all right?
                           [looking up]
                            MME. OLIVETI
     You look all pale.
     I’m always pale.

We see Cécile reach up involuntarily to touch her temple, then morph that motion as if it were to adjust her hair, as Mme Oliveti take a bite of lunch.

If you haven’t noticed any of the previous signs, this is your notification from Hausner to start paying more attention to Cécile’s health.

We see Cécile take a microscopic bite of her lunch, and she makes it look like even that is an effort; she chews for far longer than probably required.  We see the trace of an expression cross her face as she turns the attention of her gaze and attention towards…

What is that look?                                                                                                   [©Coop 99 Films-2009]

What is that look?  Is it the look of someone who know that, in fact, they are dying and their time is short and are jealous of someone else who is getting better?  Is it the look of recognition of the impending miracle, but not for me?  What?  What ever it is, Cécile is still on the ball, not much slips by her attention, even when she is not feeling well herself.


We see Christine, Sonja, Maria and at the edge of the shot M. Hruby, at their usual table having lunch together.

We see Maria feeding Christine, without much attention, much larger portions than previously, and in fact about as much as Christine can handle.  With a some effort Christine manages to get the first large mouthful down.  We see Christine turn and notice Cécile looking at her.  Christine turn away, opens her mouth again and receives an even larger mouthful of food.  A little remains at the corner of her mouth, which Maria wipes away with a napkin.  Sonja is eating silently, looking down at her plate.

The situation is a little out of hand over at that table, but Cécile is too sick to have the energy to deal with it.  Maria is still taking her hostility out on Christine, making the minimum effort and feeding her too much at once.  Still Christine doesn’t complain and manages to get all of the food down.  The extra nutrition may actually have a bit of a salutary effect on Christine, and we can’t help but notice that Christine notices Cécile watching her.

I’m also always very interested in the way directors and actors handle that most basic human activity of eating.  It can be so indecorous.  It’s interesting to compare these two scenes and three characters:  Mme. Oliveti, Cécile, and Christine.  Mme Oliveti is all business, but neat; Cécile is eating like a bird, and Christine is being turned into a foie gras by Maria.


We see in a very flattened and compressed shot Maria and Christine alone on the pathway of the Stations of the Cross, just a mile of depth of field.  Maria is struggling with pushing Christine along towards us.  We hear the sounds of the wind and birds, chirping in the background.  The road is overgrown by trees and shaded, but in the background is bright sunshine

We see as they approach us closely the wheelchair lurch and get stuck for a moment and teeter.  Christine has been looking very subdued, but looks a little nervous as the rut approaches.

This afternoon seems to be turning into some kind of a trial for Maria – nobody seems to be having a really good day in fact.  She is really struggling, but its not clear yet why.

SOUND CUE:  Church carillons start to play in the distance.


We see Kuno at a turn of the path above us, coming back down the road.


We see suddenly that the path or road the pilgrims have been going along is very steep, winding and is transected by drainage channels.  We see our characters from over the shoulders of the gold painted statuary of one of the Catholic ‘stations of the cross’ the cross, interspersed along the steeply climbing road.  Kuno hurries down the road towards Chirstine and Maria.

                       [calling out to Maria]
     Wait! I’ll give you a hand.

We see Kuno come around and take over the wheelchair from Maria.

‘Here’, I think, happens to be  where St. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus with her veil after Simon helps Jesus carry the cross.  How apropos.

                               [to Maria]
     That’s what I’m here for.

We see Kuno start to push Christine’s wheelchair, with some difficulty up the hill.

Kuno is on the ball, good job.

SOUND CUE:  Church bell tolling the hour.

                             KUNO – CONT.
                      [as they round the corner]
     I have to atone for my sins.


We see that the stragglers: Christine, Kuno and Marie, Kuno still helming Christina’s wheelchair have caught up with the rest of the pilgrims, who are congregated beneath the station where Jesus is laid in the tomb, they stop at the back of the group.

Father Nigl in all of his glory, is standing head bowed, hands gently holding a bible leading the group in prayer.

Finally we get to see Father Nigl doing something fatherly.

                            FATHER NIGL
     Let us pray to the lord not to despair in the face of Death.  
     May we see the grave for what it truly is:

We see Maria glance back at Kuno.  Seeing no response, she turns away again.

An in between place, where we leave our mortal bodies.


We see that Christine has been attentive to this ostensibly religious experience.  She seems to be paying pretty strict attention to Father Nigl.

We see the form of  Kuno standing behind Christine one hand on the wheelchair and the other hand resting on his thigh – a big ring is evident.  Maria is standing next to Kuno her hands held nervously in front of her, framed by her black Malteser cape and red sleeves.

                         FATHER NIGL – CONT.
     We shall now move on to the Station of the Resurrection.  
     For this is the truth of Christianity… 
     Eternal life.

We see Maria tentatively extend her hand tentatively over towards Kuno’s, just until they touch. Kuno’ hand recoils, and Maria pulls her hand back.  We see Christine has watched the entire transaction.

This is an important moment.

So here we have two currents crossing.  The mundane current of the relationship issues between Christine, Kuno, and Maria; and then, the spectre that hangs over all other currents, death, our mortality and our presentiment of our individual mortality.  Christine seems attentive to both streams for the first time.

     Hallelujah, hallelujah…

We see Kuno lean forward and unlock the wheels on Christine’s wheelchair, as the group starts to move on.


We see Maria fall in behind Kuno as the group moves on with her head hung in dejection.


We see Maria and Kuno standing midway on the pedestrian bridge over the Gave de Pau.  We hear the rushing of the water under the bridge.  Maria is leaning back against the rail.  Kuno is standing, relaxed, with his hands in his pockets.  They are both smiling and laugh at a shared joke.  Kuno looks relaxed and at ease for the first time in Maria’s presence.

For all of her troubles Maria is finally having some success with Kuno.  She is young, she is rather beautiful, she is also very immature.  Kuno is handsome, able bodied and has something Maria lacks, some maturity.  In a certain sense these two actually looks like an appropriate couple.


We see Christine sitting by herself in her wheelchair some ways away.  She has been parked.  She looks back over her shoulder at the couple on the bridge, looking a little hurt, and looks down dejected.

Here we get to experience some more of Christine’s predicament, she has been parked, she is powerless to change her circumstances – except to shout, or yell or complain – but there are hidden and unpredictable costs to those strategies for Christine.  Kuno seems insensitive to this – not a good sign.  When you are on the path of service, or in a position of caregiver, part of your function is to be cognizant of these things at all times, and in this circumstance this applies equally to Kuno and Maria.


We see a video screen on a cart in a darkened room.  We are watching a video interview with a man Jean-Pierre Bely, who was a previous caser of a miraculous cure at Lourdes.  We are watching Bely recount his experience for the camera sitting down in his home.

                          JEAN-PIERRE BELY
                           [to the camera]
     Everyone was praying devotedly, 
     repeating the words spoken by the priest.
     I was exhausted and felt unwell, 
     I concentrated instead on a single thought:
     Lord, may thy will be done.  Virgin Mary, pray for us.

We see the video cut to a closer shot, and continue to zoom in.

                       JEAN-PIERRE BELY – CONT.
     Suddenly, I felt a bolt flash through me from my head to my feet, 
     like an electric shock.  
     I thought it was the end.  
     But no, I was kneeling in front of my wheelchair, 
     upright, with my hands together.

We see a tight shot on M. Bely’s hands in his lap.

                       JEAN-PIERRE BELY - CONT.
                          [moves his hands]
     I don’t know what happened, but I knew I was cured.  
     The pain was all gone,  
     And my limbs which had been paralyzed and flaccid, 
     were full of renewed strength.

We see the video end with view of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Grotto.

Priming the pump.  In my estimation this is one of the more obscure scenes in the film.  It’s function seems to be to be little more than to call attention to the issue of doubt; making the implicit explicit.  This was a legit miracle?  Yes or no?  is the question being posed?  Can you tell just by watching a video?  Of course we really haven’t thought about it yet.  What is a miracle and how do we tell if we really have one in our presence?  Much of the rest of the movie pivots around those questions.

Embedded in there is also the very Catholic notion, which I should be very careful about commenting on [not being Catholic], about the differing rolls of the rolls of prayer in regards to the God and to the Virgin.  I will go so far as to say that it is the roll of God to exert His  will and create effects in the world, while it is the roll of the Virgin [and other saints as well] because of her special status and relationship to the Divine to act as a sort of prayer amplifier and pray on our behalf to the God – who then gets things done.  At least that’s my best understanding of the Catholic notion.


We see our group of pilgrims sitting in the semi-darkness of the video room, lit only by light coming in through windows from outside in the hallway.  We hear then see the overhead lights come slowly one by one.  The wheelchair bound are in the front, our protagonist Christine on the end.  She looks around a little bored or dejected.  Everyone starts to talk.  Everyone starts to get up and leave

                             BIDDY ONE
                           [to Biddy Two]
     Did you notice anything?
                             BIDDY TWO
                           [to Biddy One]
                             BIDDY ONE
                           [to Biddy Two]
     The man who had the miracle, he was sitting down.
     We didn’t see him get up once.
                             BIDDY TWO
                           [to Biddy One]
     Yeah?  So?
                             BIDDY ONE
                           [to Biddy Two]
     Doesn’t that make you think?

No answer from Biddy Two.  Ok, so faith, doubt and denial these three, but the highest of these is faith – to morph 1st Corinthians: 13.  The best statements on the nature of faith I’ve come across always revolve around the issue of belief in the face of genuine doubt.  Doubt is a human virtue, look at the Apostle Thomas, in the upper room when the resurrected Jesus returned, Thomas alone of all humanity was vouchsafed the blessing of touching the resurrected body of Christ – because he doubted.  Not bad – I have no issues with doubting in regards to faith; the question is can you still then believe at all?  Or do you choose to believe nothing and become a nihilist?  And of course denial is another matter entirely, faith sustained by denial, isn’t.


We see the room darkened except for the light over Mme Carré’s bed. Mme Carré is kneeling in prayer to her stature of the Virgin on her night table.  She crosses herself and stands up.  She looks over at Christine out of view.

It seems hard not to like Mme Carré, its more difficult to really understand her, at least from the post-post-modern-agnosto/atheistic mind – but I think we all wish we had a grandmother like this.


We see Mme Carré has gotten Christine out of bed, dressed her, and gotten her into her wheelchair.

We see she now finishing putting on Christine’s jacket and buttoning it up.  From outside the building in the distance we hear pilgrims singing.

                        [back turned to us]
     Don’t you think we might get lost?
                            [no reply]

We see Mme Carré put on Christina’s famous red rain-hat.

Plan B. – Mme. Carré seems to be a pretty bold risk taker – who knew?  Making up for the misstep of the morning, or is it more the genuine grandmotherly caring?  the desire to somehow to place Christine in the right place at the right time to be in the path of the miracle when it rolls by.  Who knows?


We see Mme Spor [Biddy One], Father Nigl and Monsieur Oliveti gathered around one of the low tables in the lobby sharing a joke.

                             M. OLIVETI
     The Holy Ghost, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary, 
     are on a cloud discussing their holiday plans.
     The Holy Ghost says: “Let’s go to Bethlehem."  
     Jesus says, “Bethlehem?  No, we’ve been there lots of times.”
     The Holy Ghost thinks and says, “Then how about Jerusalem?”  
     Jesus says, “Jerusalem? No, we’ve been there lots of times.”

We see Mme Carré wheeling Christine quietly out through the lobby behind the joksters.  We follow them as the go past the Our Neon Lady of Lourdes to the doors.  

                          M. OLIVETI – CONT.
     The Holy Ghost thinks and says, “I’ve got it!  
     Let’s go to Lourdes!”  
     The Virgin Mary says, “Yeah, great!  
     I’ve never been there before!”

Father Nigl smiles in amusement.  Mme. Spor takes note the two pilgrims leaving, but says nothing.

Sacrilegious I’m sure, but funny.  A couple of points to make.  M. Oliveti is an interesting character, he is also running that edge of doubt, he’s the trixter character in all of this – yet – he is also a volunteer.  He is a voluntary member.  Like all of the other Maltesers, including Maria for instance, M. Oliveti at some level has invested some energy in being here and doing this type of charitable work, you can never factor that out completely when evaluating him.  The Order of Malta doesn’t take everyone.  This isn’t like joining the American Red Cross, or Habitat for Humanity.  All of the Maltesers have to be given fair credit for having selected themselves out of the run of the mill to be here and for having dedicated some portion of their lives, and often a great deal of money to do this work.  This is not a Perillo tour.


MUSIC CUE:  carillon call in the distance.

We see the streets of Lourdes late at night outside the brightly lit and open for business ‘Alliance Catholique’.  Pilgrims are streaming by on their way to the Sanctuary carrying candles.

We see Christine in her wheelchair being pushed by Mme. Carré towards the sanctuary.

Nighttime in Lourdes, c’est belle n’est pas?

It’s an interesting contrast of images, the dark unlit streets of Lourdes and the bright, white and blue neon-lit well of the interior of ‘The Alliance Catholique’ store.  Is it garish or beautiful?  This location seems to have been used as visual example of the aspect of crass commercialism of Lourdes,  which will in the ensuing scene will be contrasted with the quietly exalted beauty of the nightly torchlight Marian Procession and blessing in the Rosary Square.  What ever it may be aesthetically and symbolically, its certainly a convenient source of outdoor lighting for filmmakers.

This is the scene, I believe, that prompted Mr. Clark to remark:

“…Christine is a squashed-in paraplegic and excursion-relief junkie whose schedule gently confronts the titular French spa/casino-like Catholic shrine nestled into the lovely Pyrenees…”

There is something unexpected to be said for that particular simile; which is, that whatever you think of spas or casino’s their business model, practices, or aesthetics, that the dematerialization of matter architecturally, particularly in interior spaces, using light as a medium was pioneered and brought to a first perfection by the architects of the Catholic Church in their great Gothic cathedrals, as I alluded to above in the paragraph about the Basilica of St. Pius X.  Here we actually get to see some of that heavenly light, that we were missing so poignantly in the morning’s Benediction, intruding into our scene emanating from a religious trinket stall. But light is light, whether it is emanating from a consecrated candle, or a neon lamp, it tends to function in the same way perceptually in either case; there will always be a metaphorical ambiguity here.  So, we see that Mr. Clark may have inverted his metaphor again.  The correct, but surprising, metaphor is how like a Catholic cathedral a casino or a spa is.

As an aside, I was successful in running to ground ‘The Alliance Catholique’ store, it stand just across the street from the Sanctuary, but would tend to put us on the opposite side of the Sanctuary from The Accueil Notre Dame – if that is significant.  Its website claims it to have been in business since 1885, is run by a team of four local ladies, and claims to hold a patent as ‘supplier to the Vatican’.


We see hundreds of pilgrims holding lighted candles crowded into an area near the Balilica of the Rosary.  More and more come in each moment.  On the far side of the plaza from us stands the ‘crowned statue’ of Our Lady of Lourdes, bathed in white light.

MUSIC CUE:  Voices chanting

We see Christine and Mme Carré emerge out of the crowd.


From above we see a view of the altar platform in front of the Basilica of the Rosary and the edge of the plaza.  There is a lighted image of the Virgin under a canopy at the front of the platform.  Priests are seated to the rear.  Hundreds of pilgrims with lighted candles are press up right to the edge of the platform with a darkened aisle running up the middle of the crowd.

The beauty of faith in action                                                                                 [©Coop 99 Films-2009]

We start to look up slowly.  The extent of the crowd is revealed row by row.  Thousands and thousands of worshipers are filling the plaza,  thousands more continue to enter in a winding procession.  That stretches back to the far end of the mall.

Christine and Mme Carré are in there no doubt, lost among the multitudes of lights.  It’s worth remembering that something like 15,000 pilgrims arrive and depart Lourdes each day.

It’s has been a very full day for our pilgrims, but there is much more yet in store for them.  Please check back in for day three of Lourdes.  Even under optimal circumstances it takes about four days for me to pull one of these segments together, if I have no other major distractions, so please be patient.

~ Atani

*The notion of God that I am using here is one any good mystic [or gnostic] would recognize, and that I crib shamelessly form Uncle Joe [Campbell not Stalin].  “God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought, even teh category of being and non-being”

Issues and Conflicts
Implicit/Subtle/Archetypal – More Significant

  1. Polarity  vs  Unity
  2. Ambiguity  vs  Certainty
  3. Mystery  vs  Explanation
  4. Passivity  vs  Activity
  5. Paralysis  vs  Motion
  6. External  vs Internal
  7. Center  vs  Periphery
  8. Engagement  vs  Detachment
  9. Ritual  vs  Miracle
  10. Faith  vs  Doubt
  11. Mortality  vs  Immortality
  12. Kindness  vs  Coldness
  13. Sanctity  vs  Secular
  14. Contradiction  vs  Agreement
  15. Attraction  vs  Repulsion
  16. Consciousness  vs  Habit
  17. Sickness  vs  Health
  18. Life  vs  Death
  19. Loneliness  vs  Wanted
  20. Appropriate Behavior  vs  Inappropriate Behavior

Explicit/Gross/Material-Less Significant


1 thought on “Lourdes – Day Two – Cinema Interuptus: The Nigredo, Eating an Elephant, or Too Big a Rat

  1. Pingback: Lourdes – Cinema Interuptus – Day Three, The Albedo – Miracle Emergent and all about Cécile and the Fisher King | The Coraline Meme

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