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Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Susan Tan

This film gleams. The story telling is sparse, without embellishments. But visually it is stunning. I had some preconceived notions from the mixed though mostly favorable reviews online. The criticisms against it are somewhat exaggerated. After receiving it in the mail today, I watched it with keen interest. The story does draw in the viewer to the message of Fatima. That is, a hope for peace and spiritual healing, and a return to Godliness.

It begins simply as Sr. Lucia Santos, the oldest of the three Fatima children, who became a Carmelite contemplative nun, recalls and writes down her childhood memories, and the miraculous events at Fatima that has changed her life forever.

Shot in black and white in the noir style, the filmmakers—the Higgins brothers—refined cinematographers, make inventive use of light and darkness, chiaroscuro, to such dramatic effect and advantage. Color sweeps through the screen only when the miraculous occurs and the Virgin Mother Mary appears, as some other reviewers also have commented. The visual contrasts depict the physical difference between this natural life and the supernatural life of grace. When heaven appears on earth, the black-and-white world at Fatima begins to throb with color and is infused with the full spectrum of light and life.

The best scenes include the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima and the miracle of the sun at the end. Nothing is overly wrought. Lucia is a simple country girl who trusts. Francisco and Jacinta are children who remain thoughtful and pensive through the characters who play them onscreen, though there is a certain joy with their presence. The best character proves to be Lucia’s mother. She portrays the change of heart that the skeptic—as was true in their time and even down to this day and age through the viewer, might not have readily expected. It’s true that this version may be called “a modern-day classic.” Distilled to its essence, the film is pure poetry. I would urge families to go and see it.

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