Several documentary films dealing with issues related to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes have already been released. Not long ago, in these pages, we reviewed Hospitallers. The hands of the Virgin, by Jesus Garcia Colomer. But the documentary that opens this week is different. Different in general from this type of documentaries based on testimonies of conversion or supernatural experiences.
To begin with, the directors, Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai, are not believers. Therefore, they do not intend to evangelize or catechize. They have nothing to defend and nothing to safeguard. They have gone to Lourdes without prejudice, without preconceived ideas. And they have gone to observe, to see what happens there. Without filters, with authenticity, only guided by the desire to faithfully reflect the truth of what is happening. Without censoring anything or manipulating. And they have put the camera at the service of this purpose. The camera, but also their aesthetic and artistic sense of filmmakers. In this way, the viewer becomes a silent and discreet witness of so many things that happen in the hearts of pilgrims.
The directors, in addition to showing us with great sensitivity many general situations of the sanctuary, focus their attention on some specific cases of various kinds. For example, we follow a man who goes on a pilgrimage with his son. He has left his wife and his other seriously ill son at home. They are going to pray. The directors have had the wisdom to record the prayers of this father of a family that we can listen to in off. They use this resource with other characters and it is one of the great dramatic and aesthetic successes of the film. Another case is that of an older man who has problems with his gender identity, and habitually cross-dresses. He is going to ask Our Lady to help him, because he suffers a lot. He is a very devout man who likes to be an acolyte at the Eucharist. And he does it with impeccable recollection. We will also see a group of prostitutes who go with a priest to put themselves in the hands of Mary. And some gypsies. And a man who after a failed suicide attempt has been left disabled.
We don’t know how their stories end. We do not know how the Virgin responds to her requests. No matter. It is not the goal of this movie. The documentary enters fully into the suffering and pain, declined in many facets, and into the deep religious sense of the human being. It is not a small thing. And the filmmakers do it with an exquisite sense of taste. With elegance. No shrillness. Without looking for effects and melodramas.
The film has its origin in a married couple who are friends with Alban Teurlai, who, upon returning from Lourdes, told the filmmaker about their experience, which aroused curiosity and interest. Lourdes it premiered in France before the pandemic, in 2019, and achieved remarkable viewing figures. It was even nominated for best documentary at the César Awards, which are like the Goyas, but from the French Academy. A film that leaves a mark on those who see it.
Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai