Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes, a starkly designed inquiry into the nature of miracles, exists in a lineage of films that includes Alain Cavalier’s Thérèse, Jacques Rivette’s The Nun, Robert Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc, and professed inspiration, Carl Dreyer’s Ordet. In each, purity of form (often lazily labeled “minimalism” or even more erroneously “transcendentalism”) dovetails with the main character or filmmaker’s intensity of belief. Aesthetically, Lourdes, with its often unadorned and static compositions, fits in with this group nicely. Yet Hausner, for all the honesty of her investigation, and the asceticism of her visuals, approaches the idea of miracles with a detached, quizzical eye.
Her protagonist, Christine, a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic pilgrim to France’s Lourdes shrine (famous for Virgin Mary visitations and miraculous healing), even though often shown alone, seems an afterthought within the frame, so regularly is she viewed from behind, or off to the side. Subtle zooms and compositions that bustle like those of Tati suggest a somewhat askance view of the proceedings, an interest less in miracles themselves than the skepticism and procedural morass that surrounds their certification; flashes of arid humor suggest Hausner might be the type who’d seek out a Virgin Mary toast on auction for fun, or even make one herself. Read Jeff Reichert’s review of Lourdes.