From the life of Hildegard von Bingen

By - Mar 18th, 2011 01:38 pm
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Margharethe Von Trotta’s 2009 film Vision: From the Life of Hildgarde Von Bingen tells the remarkable story of the 12th century Benedictine nun (portrayed by Barbara Sukowa, in her fifth collaboration with Von Trotta) who was a Christian mystic, composer of music and an expert in herbal medicine, among many, many other things. Though her story is not widely known, von Bingen gained a certain amount of fame as the author of many spiritual texts, based on the visions she received from God.

Image courtesy Zeitgeist Films

Cloistered from the age of 8, Hildegarde went on to make her way in a male-dominated world despite many obstacles, including her lack of education. She fiercely challenges her male counterparts within the order while working to expand the roles and responsibilities of women within the Church. Hildegarde manages to gain permission to write religious texts based on her visions, and eventually breaks from the Benedectine chapter, setting out to preach on the road.

What is impressive about Von Trotta’s proto-feminist portrayal of Hildegarde’s life is that the film is not only about her accomplishments in the religious world, but it also explores the delicate infrastructure of a cloister and the relationships of the sisters. In fact, Sukowa’s performance is most poignant and touching while portraying Hildegarde’s relationship with Richardis, her daughter-like protégé. The film is also successful in dealing with intensely religious subject matter without alienating the audience.

While Hildegarde’s legacy is inspiring and her story is one that should most certainly be told, I can’t help but wonder if it needs a full two hours to do so. I admit, by the end of the film, I was certainly more interested and invested in the characters, but that speaks more to the subtle and beautiful acting than it does to the story. It may not be a film for all audiences, but Vision certainly offers insight into an oft-overlooked chapter in history.

Vision: From the Life of Hildegarde von Bingen makes its Milwaukee premiere at the UWM Union Theatre, screening March 18-20. For information, tickets and showtimes, click here.

0 thoughts on “Vision: From the life of Hildegard von Bingen”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I had never heard of her before I purchased a CD of her “Canticles of Ecstasy” several years ago. Amazing stuff I must say.

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