Film, Drama
Austrian director Jessica Hausner, once a pupil of Michael Haneke (and credited on imdb.com, not very flatteringly, as ‘script girl’ on ‘Funny Games’), takes her cameras to the French Pyrenean pilgrimage site of Lourdes for her third film, a mysterious, French-language ensemble piece about the role of miracles in the modern world. Hausner’s focus is on a youngish French woman, Christine (Sylvie Testud), one of a large group of pilgrims being shepherded around by Lourdes’s Order of Malta volunteers, a gang of young helpers dressed like fascists moonlighting as members of the St John Ambulance. But Hausner is wary of focusing too much on Christine, preferring to give equal billing to Lourdes itself and her wider group of pilgrims.

The characters are scripted, but the places are real, and part of the film’s thrill, especially when coupled with Hausner’s often inscrutable attitude towards the place, is to watch her drama unfolding in such a location, both creepy and magical, dour and uplifting. Hausner has been given a privilege and she uses it wisely.

Gradually, though, the drama tightens around Christine, whom we observe at closer quarters than the others. She is frail, pretty and blonde; she’s also living with multiple sclerosis and is unable to move her body below the neck. Christine’s religious beliefs are unclear (‘I prefer the cultural trips,’ she says) but the pilgrimage is having a strange effect on her and soon she’s the focus of everyone’s attention. Are we witnessing a miracle? Is Christine manipulating the situation? Is she really ill? And are we cruel even to entertain that last thought?

The beauty of Hausner’s film is that just when you think she’s going to take a sneering swipe at Lourdes, its tacky trinkets and deluded visitors, the film takes a much less easy – and more inquiring – turn. Like Haneke, Hausner is more comfortable opening a debate than closing it. Some things are clear, though. Her photography is exquisite, evoking religious icons, and her mastery of directing such a group of actors at this exceptional location allows the film to maintain a strong ensemble feel while never losing sight of the mysterious story at its core. There’s also a delicious streak of black humour that runs through the film and stops it from becoming too pious or maudlin. The result is a provocative and surprising pleasure that may persuade even the most hardened rationalists to reconsider what religion means as a sanctity to those who have few other choices in life.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: U
Release date: Friday March 26 2010
Duration: 99 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jessica Hausner
Screenwriter: Jessica Hausner
Cast: Sylvie Testud
Léa Seydoux
Bruno Todeschini
Elina Löwensohn

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

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I too, agree that she was given the ultimate gift from God, only to squander it within such a short time after being healed. And remember the woman at the party who remarked that maybe God wasn't in control? Yet clearly He was-the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away apparently in this case, to one who was perhaps less deserving .Many of the faithful who had been coming year after year with no miracle of their own, resented Lea, who was obviously not as pious as they were, and would make callous remarks about her behind her back. Is that so Christian either? Alot of food for thought this movie gives the filmgoer, from many different aspects.

Some films make me feel violated. The French, especially, portray an immoral world stripped of all illusions about meaning and love. Watching Lourdes, I was alternately watching for mockery of a site that I as a devout Catholic hold sacred and being caught up in the story. When it became evident that one of the characters, a young woman with MS, was going to be healed, I steeled myself and sent up a quick prayer that the film wouldn't end with a cynical twist. But it did. Jesus said to one person He healed, "Your faith has saved you. Go and sin no more." But this young woman used her healing as an opportunity to sin. Within a day, she had seduced her caregiver's lover. While she was dancing with the amoral young man later that evening, she was starry eyed, but he clearly was not. Then she suddenly fell. Within minutes, he had walked away from her with a feeble excuse, and within another few minutes she slowly sank back into her wheelchair. Cynics will probably see the loss of her healing as a proof that such healings are not real. I see the loss of her healing as possibly the consequence of her spending the 1st hours of her new life in a sinful dalliance.

This film has a wonderful texture and a calm acceptance of life: neither criticising nor too enthusiastic. For once you have the feeling that th camera watches and captures but doesn't judge. One of the further rewards is an interview with the main actress. It was a delight to listen to someone so searching, so full of life and intelligence;a big ego in a small package, strongly opinionated but aware of her own foibles. Great cinema and reminded me of My Dinner with Andre.


An interesting oddity of a film.Sylvie Testud is as usual highly watchable.The madness of human nature in it's ability to believe the ridiculous, is well shown here.The film drives along with very little narrative,instead relying on the main character's tender heart to guide us through.However the last 3rd of the film,becomes ludicrous and too sentimental.It makes a parody of itself.The screen writer could maybe have done a bit better.All in all,a curiosity that works quite well,but has too many imperfections to merit the plaudits it has been given comment you type in this box will appear on the site