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Vision: From The Life Of Hildegard von Bingen

Margarethe von Trotta, who helped lead the New German Cinema movement and has been considered one of the world’s premiere feminist filmmakers ever since directing (with then-husband Volker Schlöndorff) 1975’s The Lost Honour Of Katharina Blum, sheds light – literally and figuratively – on another exceptional woman, 12th century Benedictine nun Hildegard von Bingen, in the superbly rendered and deeply absorbing religious drama Vision: From The Life Of Hildegard von Bingen.

Poster art for "Vision: From The Life Of Hildegard von Bingen"The film follows the often sickly von Bingen (played as an adult by frequent von Trotta collaborator Barbara Sukowa) as she is cloistered at age 8, takes her monastic vows at 16, then, upon the death of her spiritual mother (whose strange demise can be best described as ‘medieval’), takes over as abbess at the harshly patriarchal Disibodenberg monastery, later using her sacred eminence — and not inconsiderable strategic savvy — to found the all-female Convent Rupertsberg. Along the way she becomes renowned for her prophetic (and controversial) godly visions, musical compositions, playwriting, herbal remedies, scientific ardour and devout teachings.

While this stunningly shot picture’s second half turns a bit episodic as it covers the highlights of non Bingen’s middle life, including her co-dependent relationship with an adoring young protégé (Hannah Herzsprung), it remains an absorbing portrait of a powerful woman well ahead of her time. Sukowa’s performance is never less than compelling as she veers from stern to loving, aggressive to subservient, and practical to mystical in her quest to protect her sisters and advance her various agendas.

Vision is a must-see for serious filmgoers.

– Gary Goldstein, The Los Angeles Times

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