Monday, 15 December 2014

REVIEW - STATIONS OF THE CROSS (DIETRICH BRUGGEMANN)


How close we've come before to slipping off the knife-edge of artistic credibility that divides banality and parody. Dietrich Bruggemann's Stations of the Cross is too well-intentioned a film, and too high in quality in several aspects, to be dismissed completely, but it does slip off that knife-edge and plummet toward parody. And that's greatly unfortunate, since what Bruggemann has conceived here is a fairly compelling piece of drama with a number of excellent performances. Typical of his Germanic counterparts, Bruggemann designs a dramatic environment characterised by austerity, that he can reduce its component parts to a select few and hone them. The rigidity of his formal structure is fine - indeed, it encourages the emotional current that builds up through the story to truly flourish, and thereby present Bruggemann as a better humanist than formalist. That story concerns a teenage girl involved in a catholic fundamentalist denomination of christianity, and the sad, solemn extremes to which she will go in order to fulfill the dogma of her faith. It's a story that engages quite naturally, only its allegorical content would have been resolutely more potent had it not been consigned to the film's overarching design, whereby each scene schematically sticks to the biblical story of the stations of the cross. That's of painful detriment to the film, most notably as Bruggemann strains to devise scenarios that fit the biblical narrative first, and his own second. The film is also blighted by a number of egregious missteps, such as its facile depiction of each character as a one-dimensional trope, a seemingly arbitrary adherence to a specific visual style, a few stilted scenes featuring some questionable acting, and a flagrant contradiction of the very purpose of the film in one outrageously contrived line of dialogue near the end.