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Xavier Giannoli’s The Apparition is a flawed but heartfelt film about the mysterious workings of divine grace, and things that can’t entirely be explained away. It is showily freighted with the music of Monteverdi, Arvo Pärt and Jóhann Jóhannsson. Giannoli’s film-making has its own fluency, seriousness and weight. Like Jacques Audiard, he knows how to get the wide shot and the bigger picture, the panoramic sweep that exalts the immediate emotional drama. Unlike Audiard, he does not always marry the excellent performances to a story that really means something. There is a bit of redundancy.
Vincent Lindon, grizzled and rumpled as this actor habitually is, plays Jacques, a troubled warzone journalist on sick leave due to the trauma of seeing his photographer colleague shot dead next to him in Syria. Brooding at home, Jacques is (implausibly) contacted by the Vatican, because they admire his journalism and want an objective secular figure to head up an investigatory commission into reports of an “apparition” of the Blessed Virgin in rural south-west France.
The visionary is a pale 16-year-old girl, Anna (Galatéa Bellugi), who has become the centre of a growing and excitable Lourdes-type cult of worshippers under the wing of a gimlet-eyed Franciscan priest, Father Borrodine (Patrick d’Assumçao), who resents the church’s intervention. As Jacques carries out his questioning, and alternative psychological explanations become apparent, the story becomes a kind of cop procedural, and Jacques’s spiritual suffering is important. Could it be that, debunked or not, the apparition will be a cleansing or clarifying experience for him?
This long film doesn’t quite succeed in being as powerful or as moving as Giannoli might have wished, due to an uncertainty about how great a role rational scepticism has to play, but it has a satisfying ending that might have pleased the veteran screenwriter and storyteller Jean-Claude Carrière.
Source: The Guardian
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