Sunday, October 31, 2004

Notes on the film "Therese."

I wasn't planning to blog on this topic, but since Jonathan quotes me regarding our recent excursion to see the movie Therese I might as well offer a quick review. As Jonathan notes, I opined that Therese makes The Passion look like The Last Temptation of Christ. While in my view The Passion did a poor job of presenting the humanity of the historical Jesus (something The Last Temptation at least *attempted* to do, even though I disagree with its interpretion), it still breathed a lot more life into its subject than Therese manages to do. Now, I respect the intentions that the makers of Therese had; their heartfelt devotion and strong faith is evident in virtually every frame of the film. However, the St. Therese of Lisieux that the movie presents is as one-dimensional and flimsy as a holy card. Therese shows us little of its subject's many struggles or her great strength and determination; conflicts and tensions are only momentary, and the characters' interior lives remain closed to us. Therese coasts along on saccharine kitsch and little else. With its poorly-scripted dialogue, stilted and wooden performances, cheesy sets and amateurish cinematography, what Therese reminded me most of the schlocky educational shorts I was made to watch in elementary school on "The Life of Benjamin Franklin" and similar topics. For all its flaws, Therese has been hyped in the diocesan media - see, for example, its front-page treatment on the Archdiocese of Chicago website, enthusiastic treatment by the Archdiocese of Detroit, and this gushy press release from the Archdiocese of Boston. All this publicity is something of a pity, as it will probably ensure that a lot more people will see this Therese than saw the far superior 1986 French film of the same title (which is at least available on DVD now). I know that life often isn't fair, but it still gets my goat to see cheap sentiment triumph over art, especially in the realm of cinema.

Some readers may object to my views on Therese, and they're entitled to. If you liked the movie, good for you; if you want to provide your own review, feel free to do so in the comment box. I'll remind you, however, that I happen to be a big fan of the Little Flower, so please refrain from any cheap shots suggesting that my lack of appreciation for the film suggests a lack of piety. If anything, my devotion to Therese serves to intensify the disappointment I felt in watching this portrayal of her. So, for those who haven't seen the movie and want my opinion, don't see the new Therese - track down the earlier version instead. AMDG.


At October 23, 2007 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for your review. Unbeknownst to me, I had originially seen the 1986 version of Therese, not the 2004 version. You can imagine my horror as I sat with my husband to watch the 2004 version after claiming that even if he did not appreciate Therese's charism, at least he could enjoy good cinema. I read a review that complained that the 1986 version treated Therese as nothing more than a school girl and didn't capture her charism, and yet I found her much more spiritually appealing and the reactions to her more believable. Okay, I've said my piece and I'm letting it go. Best wishes with your spiritual journey!



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