LA VOILOU, LA VOILÀ !!

Thanks to two recent developments – the recognition of a miraculous recovery in Lourdes and the new film by Xavier Giannoli -, the Marian apparitions are coming back to the fore. Analysis of a phenomenon as old as Christianity in the chronicle of Alain Cabantous

Almost suddenly, two close facts have been part of our news. On the one hand, the recognition by the Beauvais ordinary of the miraculous healing of Sister Bernadette Moriau, delivered from an incurable illness in July 2008 following a pilgrimage to Lourdes a few months before. On the other, the remarkable release of Xavier Giannoli’s film, The Apparition, where Vincent Lindon plays a talented journalist commissioned by the Vatican to investigate the apparitions of the Virgin in the south-east of France. As if the month of Marie had taken some advance sliding from May to February!

In fact, these two phenomena are apparently fairly commonplace. Since the tenth century, when Mary would have appeared more than 21,000 times, the Roman Church has recognized only fifteen! And, in this area, it was not the 19th century that beat the record despite La Salette (1846), Lourdes (1858) or Pontmain (1871), but the 20th century. From Fatima (1917) to the Medjugorje years (since 1981), there would have been four times more appearances than in the previous century. Between 1945 and 1959, the “Lady of all peoples” appeared fifty-six times to a woman from Amsterdam. Same inflation and same ecclesiastical prudence for miraculous healings. In Lourdes alone, between 1858 and 2018, there were more than 7,300 of which 70 (for two thirds of them before 1914) endorsed by the hierarchy.  Continue reading “LA VOILOU, LA VOILÀ !!”

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.