Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ignatius Press on Bernadette

Movie Review by Ignatius Press
Highly recommended and endorsed by the Vatican . . . This two-hour film is the official dramatization of the story of St. Bernadette, and is shown daily at the world-famous Lourdes Shrine in France. Shot entirely on location under the famed French director, Jean Delannoy – one of France’s foremost filmmakers – Bernadette is based solely on recorded, factual history. Nothing in the film is embellished or over-dramatized for cinematic appeal. Delannoy wanted it to be historically accurate with no distortions or arbitrary changes – as had been done with other films on her.

[Sydney] Penny says that the opportunity for her to play the main character in the film, St. Bernadette, was truly a rare opportunity.

“Not only was this a marvelous chance to work with one of France’s most respected film directors, but as a person, I wanted to be part of something that intended to tell a beautiful story honestly.” . . .

St. Bernadette – whose body still remains incorrupt and displayed lying-in-state in a glass coffin in The Sisters of Charity Chapel in Nevers, France – was buried and exhumed three times as part of her canonization process. During each exhuming, she looked exactly as she had been the last time … uncorrupted. The incorrupt body of Bernadette is shown at the end of the film. This was particularly moving for Ms. Penny.

“When I actually saw her there, she was so tiny and fragile. It was probably the only time an actor has ever come face to face with the historical figure he was portraying.”

Penny says that although there was great interest by the French press when the film was released originally in the late 1980s, the film world at large has taken little notice of it until now. . . .

“The story of Bernadette seems almost incredible, living in these modern times. But many magnificent and incredible things happen everyday; we just have developed the habit of analyzing them into insignificance,” says Penny. “Bernadette’s story is a symbol of hope, an example of the power that one person’s faith can have on the world. I hope the word gets out that there is a film with a beautiful, simple story to tell that is still relevant to people today, whether one is Catholic or not.”

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