A Separation (2011)

Separation 1

★★★★★
Iran. Written and directed by Ashgar Farhadi / Cinematography by Mahmoud Kalari / Edited by Hayedeh Safiyari / Production design by Keyvan Moghaddam. Starring Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi, Ali-Ashgar Shahbazi, Kimia Hosseini, Merila Zare’i, Babak Karimi.

A raw and uncomfortable film, A Separation encapsulates the tensions of an entire society through two interrelated stories of disturbed family life. In the absence of an agreed moral compass, there is, at worst, evasion and blood money and, at best, intelligent compromise. At a fundamental level, we are urged to identify imaginatively with the protagonists and confront for ourselves the moral and political complexities that the film exposes.

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The Nun [La Religieuse] (2013)

The Nun 1

★★★★☆

France / Germany / Belgium. Directed by Guillaume Nicloux. Adapted from Denis Diderot’s novel La Religieuse by Guillaume Nicloux and Jerome Beaujour. Cinematography by Yves Cape. Edited by Guy Lecorne. Music by Max Richter. Production design by Olivier Radot. Starring Pauline Etienne, Isabelle Huppert, Louise Bourgoin, Martina Gedeck.

Guillaume Nicloux’ version of The Nun – a story formerly filmed in the ‘sixties by Jacques Rivette – concentrates on novice nun Suzanne’s resistance to the orthodoxy forced on her in the various convents she is imprisoned in, as well as resisting successfully the cruelties and blandishments of a succession of Mothers Superior. As such, the film is primarily a political allegory about victimhood, submission, rebellion and the puncturing of mumbo-jumbo, rather than a meditation on religious calling and aspiration.

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Corpo Celeste [Heavenly Body] (2011)

Corpo_celeste_

★★★★☆

Switzerland / France / Italy. Written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher. Cinematography by Helene Louvart. Edited by Mario Spoletini. Art direction by Luca Servino. Music by Piero Crucitti. Starring Yle Vianello, Salvatore Cantalupo, Pasqualina Scuncia, Anita Caprioli.

Alice Rohrwacher’s assured first feature, Corpo Celeste, charts the coming of age of young Marta, transported to a new life in southern Italy. All is new to her, not least a rather grim urban environment, a bleak catechism class, the secret life of the town and the parish priest, and, ultimately, the mystery of the Agony of Jesus Christ. We see her in transition, on the eve of her transformation into someone with a life of her own.

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Stations of the Cross [Kreuzweg] (2014)

Stations of the Cross

★★★★☆

Germany. Directed by Dietrich Bruggemann. Written by Anna and Dietrich Bruggeman. Edited by Vincent Assmann. Starring Lea van Acken, Franziska Weisz, Moritz Knapp.

Conceived as a meditation on the Stations of the Cross, Dietrich Bruggemann’s powerful eponymous feature looks at the abuse of a young girl within a family wedded to the rites of a powerful religious sect. Isolated from the succour of the outside world, Maria is pining away with anorexia, smothered in agonized guilt at hurting and disappointing her mother. Only in the arms of God will she find peace.

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