Today at 3:30, I saw my first film of the Hawaii International Film Festival. I am upset I haven’t had time to make it to any previous ones, but I felt like Stations of the Cross was a good starting point for the rest of the films to come.
The film started off with a view of the priest sitting around a table with children who are soon to be confirmed. They were discussing temptation and he was teaching them to not only deny modern satanic things, but to tell their classmates to deny them as well. One of the children at the table is our protagonist, a fourteen-year-old girl, Maria. This opening scene and conversation of giving up excess things to bring oneself closer to Jesus, foreshadows the events in her life that unfold before us.
At first with this opening scene, that is a single shot of one view, I thought it would have been better if they used multiple cameras to capture close ups of the children’s faces or at least moved the camera around. However, as scene after scene opened and concluded with the same camera angle shot, I began to realize this was done purposely to create a certain type of feeling, which could be interpreted in many ways. In my interpretation I think this was done to reflect the one sided view of Maria’s family as well as mirror the actual stations of the cross Jesus went through, leading up to his crucifixion. In addition to the still shots, there were only two scenes where the camera moved. This is where I knew for sure the director had done single still shots for the other scenes purposely, and it wasn’t just because they didn’t have another camera or how know to operate it. The two scenes where the camera followed the characters were during the conformation, following the children from the pews to the priest to be blessed, as well as the view of Maria’s grave following up to Heaven. I feel like these two scenes were isolated with the movement, because in relation to Jesus’ crucifixion, the conformation scene was mirrored to step 9.Jesus falls the third time, and this is the final time Jesus travels before he is nailed to the cross, so movement was significant symbolism here. As for the final grave scene, it symbolically portrays Maria’s ascention into Heaven, just as Jesus did back to God the father. This is my interpretation of the scene shots, but I feel that with such symbolism and religious influence anyone who watches this film, probably has their own view of interpretation.
Another thing I found interesting about the film was the juxtaposition of Maria and modern society, especially when she is at the doctor after falling ill. A girl who is so consumed by the ideals of God and what her church is telling her; don’t be vain, live for God, be selfless, etc., and the doctor says he thinks she has anorexia. This statement flabbergasted me and gave me a wake up call to society. Usually anorexia is caused by ones desire to fit the physical body they desire and doing measures gravely, like denying themselves food, for appearance. However, in Maria’s case she was not malnourishing herself out of vanity, but the exact opposite. She wanted to sacrifice herself to God for the sake of her younger brother’s health. There were many other references to society and the church in parallel, but this one about vanity stuck out to me in particular.
Overall, I felt the film was a bit dramatic, yet extremely well played out. The acting skills and dialog created tension you could feel extending out of the scene and filling the theater. The way the film followed the actual stations of the cross Jesus endured, was done extremely well, and looking back at my notes after the film and really letting it sink in, allowed me to see the serious symbolism that went into its production. I would most certainly recommend this film and I am glad I started the festival off with this one.