Sunday, October 10, 2004

I had an opportunity to see the movie by Luke Films, on the life of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. I had been looking forward to seeing this film for nearly two years, after going to see Leonardo Defilippis, who directed and produced it (and acted in it), in his one man play, Maximilian. After the play he showed a clip for the movie, and it looked like a very professional production. As I said, I was very eagar to see it for society really does need movies which inspire us to be all that God has created us to be.

In short, the movie was very disappointing. Visually the film is very well done; some scenes are nearly breath-taking, and the editting between scenes was smooth, though in the beginning of the film it had a bit too much of a "snap-shot" feel for my taste. My parents saw it a few days before me, and when asked my nearly revered mother about it, she said "it is too Catholic for the general public; they won't get it." Funny thing is that the mother and 19-year-old daughter who was in the theater when I saw it said the same thing. All three women are correct. Unless you know the story of the Little Flower you probably will not understand it, and will write the Martin family off as unrealistically pietistic.

The major flaw of the film is the poor script, written by Mr. Defilippis wife who drew heavily from St. Therese's The Story of a Soul. While The Story of a Soul is a modern spirital classic, this script just took "snippets" from it which left the viewer wondering what it all meant. Of course, it must be incredibly difficult to capture in words and in film the interior working of the soul, especially Therese's inner conversion from being a rather spoiled child; though very devoted and something of a prodigy in theology, she wanted people to take care of her and notice her. From that she moved to become a little child of God; doing things for others, submitting her will to God through putting up with small inconveniences and sacrifices for others. All of this was interior movement, but if you are going to make a movie about it you need to exteriorize it in a way that is not just making pious statements. There just was very little content that would grap an audience. People who have read The Story of a Soul would find more content and depth, but that is probably more because of pulling out what they had already read previously. The general audience cannot do that.

The other major flaw in the film (IMHO) was the acting. I have seen Leonardo Defilippis twice live; once for Maximilian and once for Francis of Assisi. Both times I was drawn by his facial expressions, his use of his voice and body to make you believe he is the character. In this movie his timing seemed off, like he was surprised by the dialogue. The actress you plays St. Therese, Lindsay Younce, was fine as an actress, especially once in the convent, but it was impossible for me to believe that she was a 15-year-old girl, like when Therese entered the convent. The scenes in the convent lent themselves to be easier to understand her spiritual growth, but seemed too short -- her 9 years in the convent went by in maybe 10 minutes. If you want a better view of life in a convent in those days watch, The Nun Story.

I would have a difficult time telling people NOT to see this film, since it is a wonderful subject and there is no objectionable material. At the same time I would have a difficult time recommending it, especially since it is a limited release so many people would have to travel a long distance to see it (I traveled over an hour to get to a theater showing it as did the mother and daughter I mentioned). If you get a chance to rent (note I did not say "buy") the DVD, you might want to consider it. Overall, a disappointment.

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