Fourteen-year-old Maria is a fundamentalist Catholic, living her life in a modern fashion, yet her heart belongs to Jesus. She wants to be a saint and go to heaven. No one, not even a nice boy she meets, can stop her in this goal.
Maria is 14 years old. Her family is part of a fundamentalist Catholic community. Maria lives her everyday life in the modern world, yet her heart belongs to Jesus. She wants to follow him, to become a saint and go to heaven - just like all those holy children she's always been told about. So Maria goes through 14 stations, just like Jesus did on his path to Golgatha, and reaches her goal in the end. Not even Christian, a boy she meets at school, can stop her, even if in another world, they might have become friends, or even more. Left behind is a broken family that finds comfort in faith, and the question if all these events were really so inevitable. STATIONS OF THE CROSS is an indictment and, at the same time, the legend of a saint. It's a story of religion, devotion and radical faith, and the film itself comes along just as radical as the subject matter, telling the story in only 14 fixed-angle long shots, allowing the viewer to contemplate the interactions on screen in an ...Written by
German Films Quarterly 1/2014
Stations of the Cross is one of a handful of films from 2014 that feel the deliberate touch of perfect artistic craftsmanship. Whiplash, Birdman, 10.000 Km and A Most Violent Year are probably the only others that come to mind. Here there isn't a hair out of place, a line too many, nor a beat skipped. Thusly, it all depends on how you connect to the material. I'm not religious and I rarely come across evangelists, but religion is always a fascinating topic for cinema as it reaches to the depths of humanity and metaphysical places we can't possibly understand, as Ingmar Bergman frequently explored in his films. Contemporary cinema has become so secular that we don't often see films that focus on religion so Stations of the Cross has a fresh slate when it comes to bringing the ideas and meanings of Catholicism to the 21st Century.
The concept of the film centres on Maria's attempts to make sacrifices to appease God. She forgoes basic necessities like food and warmth from her jacket much to her also strictly religious mother's chagrin. It makes you think about the temptations and pleasures we take for granted everyday. What if you had to sacrifice them? Nobody would be in heaven if that was essential. But heaven isn't the goal - the film looks further. Maria is in pursuit of sainthood, and intends to save her baby brother. It brings up fascinating ideas of a guilty admittance of the ego influencing desires for sainthood that I'd never even considered. It brings the themes back down to earth in a deeply human and flawed way. It is a cold film in its approach, but it still has its endearing qualities.
The film moves at a satisfying quaint pace and scale for the first hour, but then it takes the perfect fateful trail to its bitter end and it's equally devastating and thought-provoking. Is this religious fanaticism what God wants? It's an extreme example, but the film doesn't hold back on ideals. Lea van Acken is extraordinary, giving a vulnerable and mature performance far beyond her years as the 14 year old Maria. It's easy to marvel at her endurance for those long takes. But it's Franziska Weisz as her mother who constantly bites back that gives her the perfect board to bounce back from. With its stunning use of mise en scene and rich economy always feeling like it's ripe for cinema rather than the stage, Stations of the Cross is one of the year's essential films.
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