In this suitably austere German drama, a teenage girl pursues the ideals of Christian self-sacrifice to terrifying extremes under the spell of conservative Catholic parents and a hardline branch of the church. As a fresh-faced priest delivers smiling indoctrination to 14-year-old Maria and her confirmation classmates, it’s clear this demanding pathway to spiritual salvation is entirely at odds with the modern world and normal teenage emotions and desires. But Maria is determined to hold firm to her devotions.
Over fourteen single-shot scenes, each titled after a station of the cross on Christ’s walk to Calvary, an appalling logic of wilful privation unfolds. The film showcases Lea Van Acken’s remarkable central performance and director Dietrich Brüggemann’s adept control of a deliberately rigorous aesthetic.
For all the fine craftsmanship on display, however, it’s still possible to feel that the story’s extreme behaviour merely prompts some rather obvious point-making about those yet to discover liberal values. Is the film’s certitude not so far removed from the self-righteous values it’s seeking to deconstruct?