Review: Strong Performances Anchor ‘The Apparition’

“The Apparition” sounds like the title of a horror movie, and this is not a case where the United States distributors of this French film have goosed up the original language title, which was, yes, “L’apparition.” There are several points in the movie during which the viewer can see the story line veer into genre territory, as when some of the characters, a disparate group convened for an investigation, discuss the possibility of working with an exorcist.

But the movie, directed by Xavier Giannoli, in fact aims for tragedy (which it nearly achieves) and enigmatic spirituality (and here’s where there’s a problem). Vincent Lindon plays Jacques, a journalist whose best friend and colleague is killed, practically right next to him, in the Middle East. At home nursing a blown-out ear, and PTSD, he is summoned by a Vatican representative. A young woman in rural France, Anna (Galatéa Bellugi) has seen a vision of the Virgin Mary, and is being celebrated by locals — and now, tourists on pilgrimages — as a potential new Bernadette of Lourdes. The church wants an investigation, to which the local priest sheltering Anna has strident objections.

Mr. Lindon, who carries his powerful masculinity with canny reserve, is superb as a man inquiring into a faith he had previously thought had nothing to do with him. But Ms. Bellugi is a real find; she inhabits her character, who, even as she hides her secrets, is so genuinely beatific that you can hear it in her breathing. Which makes it even more of a shame that the movie, which for two hours is an absorbing, detailed procedural, becomes so willfully diffuse in its final 20 minutes.

Vincent Lindon in Xavier Giannoli’s “The Apparition” – illuminated film about faith

[ English translation] The subject of faith refers to “Men and Gods” (2010) Xavier Beauvois, whose Giannoli is not very far in his approach to an ambitious French auteur cinema. If their approach to the faith is different, the first referring to the assassination of the monks of Tibhirin (1996), Giannoli deals with an apparition of the Virgin Mary, as a fact, as it is documented. The starting point is an investigation launched by the Vatican to determine the veracity of a case of “appearance”. The following is realistic, precise. As at Beauvois.

Veracity and faith rarely go hand in hand. The second is not rational, lived as an inner conviction, the first is an accumulation of evidence. Giannoli’s scenario puts both in the balance. The opportunity to project a form of mysticism in the light of a skeptic (Vincent Lindon), facing the clairvoyant (amazing Galatea Bellugi), a priest (excellent Patrick d’Assumçao), a fanatic (disturbing Anatole Daubman) and to a crowd of pilgrims no less exalted.

Earth time and eternity

Beautiful equation, that all the sobriety of Vincent Lindon serves perfectly. Just like the staging of Xavier Giannoli. The subject, the apparition of the virgin to a witness, is rare in cinema (despite some seven biopics of Bernadette Soubirous); Therese of Lisieux, it is something else (The sublime “Thérèse” of Alain Cavalier). We will also mention “Fellini Roma”, with its long sequence of the appearance of the virgin with two children, rather sulphurous … with which “The Apparition” has connivances in the vision of the fanatics around the visionary child.

“The Apparition” finds this acuity of observation and analysis of Xavier Giannoli of “At the origin”. The filmmaker takes his time to account for earthly time in relation to eternity. He finds this crossroads to express doubt, in a scenario written in chapters, with his digressions (the episode of the icon). A war reporter has just lost his best friend in the field and is facing the afterlife. Beautiful subject, perhaps the main one, a film with drawers. A fair vision, ascetic, honest, and ambitious, in a fiction based on an investigation, so the suspense tense, dramatic, until an effective coup de theater. Pure in more than one way, “The Apparition” raises more questions than it answers: the mark of a work.

Source: Vincent Lindon in Xavier Giannoli’s “The Apparition” enlightened film about faith