Review – Stations of the Cross
Co-writer and director Dietrich Brüggemann promises 14 scenes that contrast the life of 14 year-old Maria (Lea van Acken) with the Crucifixion of Jesus in Stations of the Cross.
The camera is fixed on each slice of Maria’s life, unflinching, forcing contemplation. The hand of a clock shuffling in the background in a library scene indicates that sequences were shot in a single take and in real time. The pressure builds from the opener where a priest tells a group of teenagers about the level of commitment required to live a life devoted to God; beware the satanic rock music. In other scene, Maria deflects the affections of a boy at school and is later berated by her mother (Franziska Weisz) for being the object of a schoolboy’s crush. Maria’s faith is noble, she’s a kind-hearted teenager who is thoughtful and is beginning to pave the path to independence like all teens do. When the fanatical sharks begin to circle it’s terrifying to see Maria succumb to stress with only pure intentions at heart.
The moral battleground lies between Maria’s selfless nature and the unbearable expectations of an institution that preaches love but thrives on oppression. Brüggemann and co-writer, Anna Brüggemann, craft acute conversations about the nature of religion, sacrifice and the extreme pressure traditional Catholic belief systems place on impressionable young minds; the ‘get them while they’re young’ formula is still as powerful as ever within the context of Stations of the Cross.
The performances are sublime, a necessity under the intense scrutiny of Brüggemann’s stationary camera. Van Acken conveys fragility with ease while unleashing raw teenage emotions in the face of Maria’s trials. The scenes van Acken shares with Weisz are the most explosive. Weisz embodies a character that’s a maternal reimagining of Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The burden of Catholic guilt has been a mainstay of the religion but the experience of German fundamentalist Catholic guilt is suffocating in the superb Stations of the Cross.
The Popcorn Junkie