Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Mary (Abel Ferrara)
Mary (Abel Ferrara) 67 – A serious-minded film from Ferrara about the confusion and anxiety that mark a true inquisition into one’s faith, Mary certainly upends itself in its quest to capture that disquiet. After several allegorical movies that dealt with a character’s quest toward faith, her Ferrara grabs the bull by the horns and makes his most explicitly spiritual movie to date.
I especially like the way that during the film our attitude toward Binoche’s character shifts. At the film’s start, she’s playing Magdalene, the disciple who might have in fact been closest to Jesus, and immerses herself so thoroughly into the role that it prompts a serious questioning of her life’s meaning. Other characters, as well as the audience, consider her to be mad, but as the film progresses, her calm is restored, even if her normalcy is not, and her conviction becomes a source of solace when everything else seems to have gone insane. The movie stresses her assertion that the transformation into a spiritual being “takes courage.”
More than most religious films, Mary underlines the idea of pure devotion as a scary, all-consuming state to those who haven’t yet taken the plunge. That anxiety makes it the perfect response to the media frenzy that surrounded Mel Gibson’s movie last year. Ferrara’s aggressive style makes this fear palpable. I suppose this might be a work of style over substance with its dazzling, intense last half-hour the clear standout. Throughout, the director uses his typical scenes of random violence to prompt a search for meaning. With his usual theatrical lighting and his slightly dreamy backdrops, he intensifies the sense of rising theological doubt that clouds his protagonist’s mind. It’s a film that imparts a remarkable sense of importance to its characters’ spiritual progression to those viewers to shake its admittedly heavy hand.