17 December, 2009

The 13th Day, on DVD

The 13th Day, a portrayal of the 1917 events at Fatima, is now available on DVD from Netflix.

My opinion? This is no Bernadette, nor even a Song of Bernadette. The film needs to be longer, to provide more detail, and to develop the characters more.

The children are little more than cardboard cutouts of sanctity, lit with sepia; their govenrment opponents are little more than cardboard cutouts of villany, lit with high black-and-white contrast. The filmmakers should have focused less on the lighting and more on an exposition of the families' trials, the interaction with the authorities of the Church, and the visions of the three secrets. Most people watching this film will be interested in the secrets, but they are, at best, touched on in rather rushed fashion.

Probably the one best sequence of scenes happens to be the one where the directors took time to let the characters develop: the prison scene. The appearance of one prisoner can be seen even as a rebuke of the obsession with the grotesque in Mel Gibson's deeply flawed Passion of the Christ. (The directors probably didn't mean this, but God works in mysterious ways…) That scene of Jacinta dancing with people whom society has written off as irredeemable is more touching and inspiring than most anything else in the film.

The music was quite good, but I couldn't understand much of the film's dialogue: there are no English subtitles, and the sound is poorly balanced on the DVD. Some speakers are Irish, but some are Continentals for whom English is quite obviously not their first language. So I would not recommend the DVD to anyone who doesn't have an ear for thick foreign accents or who can't read Spanish. The theater experience might be more acceptable, though.

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