original title: “Kreuzweg“.
“Stations of the cross” was one of the films I expected with excitement. This German film won prizes at the festivals and it is mentioned as one of the best European films in the last year. After I watched it I can tell that it is the one of the most engaging movies I’ve seen in a while and I was strongly connected to the protagonist throughout the plot. To the point that I wished to scream at some characters involved. Myself from a Catholic family, I spent some of adolescence in a Catholic facility so I’m no stranger to the Catholic fundamentalism and “Stations of the Cross” is a tale about how fundamentalism of any kind can be harmful and even bring some fatal consequences. In a way, I was remembering “Philomena” as another – although different – example of the blindness and lack of empathy that can be a product of heartless religion.
That, by itself, should be an oxymoron. Heartless religion should be inconceivable to anyone who ever read anything about Christianity but “love your neighbor as yourself” can obviously be interpreted as an excuse for “if they don’t do everything as we think they should, they are not worthy of our attention”. I don’t won’t to insult anyone but I get emotionally involved when any form of radicalism involve children.
Plot of the “Stations of the Cross” is intriguing. In the center of attention we have Maria (Lea Von Acken), young teenager who needs to receive her sacrament of Confirmation in the fundamentalist Catholic Community of St. Paul and as every teen she fights within herself between living in a modern world and fulfilling the expectations of the community. That, as you can assume, is not at all easy and Maria finds herself in a gap between her love for Jesus and her needs to live as all other children. She tries to explain her needs in the Community, with priest and her parents, she even confess that there is one boy who tries to be her friend, but her appeals are left unheard. “Stations of the Cross” are filmed as fourteen stations in the Way of the cross, and between each station there is a pause. Left there for us to meditate and think about what we’ve just seen. Maria in her own “Way of the Cross” tries to answer to the questions asked during her preparations for the Holy Confirmation, and all that she can get as an answer is sacrifice and devotion. Like so many saints in the Christian history she tries to cross the gap by choosing God completely. That choice, however, is very literate when it’s made by teenager. If you know Stations of the Cross then the ending of the movie won’t surprise but it’ll fill you with anger. Her fundamentalist community don’t recognize the II. Vatican Council and its conclusions and they are very literate about what’s from God and what’s from the Devil. The biggest lie Devil ever conjured is that he convinced the world that he doesn’t exist.
There is another level of understanding within “Stations of the Cross”. Relationship between Maria and her mother (Franziska Weisz). Maria, as a female child, needs confirmation on that level too. She only gets preaching. But that relationship will be more and more important as the movie goes on. Maria is forced to choose. Her choice is for me well expected. But I think even God would never justify it.
Dietrich Brüggemann directed the film with skill necessary to engage the viewer completely. I was overwhelmed with compassion for Maria even when her choices were the ones that I couldn’t approve. Movie made me question myself as if I was passing Stations of the Cross together with Maria. In the middle of the journey there was a boy, Christian (Moritz Knapp) who would maybe be able to distract Maria and us from the path and between them would be friendship (or even something more) in the different circumstances but that’s something we’ll never know.
“Stations of the Cross” is wonderful movie. It forced me to contemplate about every sort of fundamentalism. It can be watched with same intensity with no difference in it if you are a believer or an atheist. Humanity and its extremes are, once again, the most important in the story. Story that I will not likely forget.
RATING: 9/10. IMDB