The movie The Innocents will break your heart. It will inspire you with its story of women who are incredibly brave and resilient. It will also make you wonder why things haven’t changed much; why women and children are still the ones who pay the highest price for the endless need men seem to feel to wage war with one another.
Madeleine Pauliac, the French nurse who wrote about the nuns in her journal
The movie is based on a true story found in the diaries of Madeleine Pauliac a French army nurse stationed in Poland at the end of World War II. She is called to a convent where one of the sisters is about to give birth. Along with other nuns in the convent she has been gang raped by Russian soldiers. The nurse soon discovers that the nun in labor is not the only sister who is pregnant.
The movie’s story is told in a quiet but terrifying way, often with the haunting singing of the nuns at worship in the background. The film’s sights, and sounds and story will stay with you for many days after you watch it. Don’t be put off by the fact it is in French with English subtitles, in some ways that makes you watch even more intently and experience it in a more visceral way. Don’t be put off either by the dark nature of the story line. I promise it is a movie that will leave you feeling inspired and hopeful.
The Nun’s Christmas
The Chi Lin Nunnery
I read the book The Glass Castle with my book club many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I was looking forward to the movie based on the book. I saw it last night. The movie reminded me again of why I so admired the four children who are at the heart of this true story. They had parents beset with personal problems who were free wheeling nomads. They loved their children but could never settle into a ‘normal’ lifestyle and provide their three daughters and their son with proper care and stability. However as adults the children were able to forgive their parents for their negligence and still love them despite it. They tried to understand why their parents weren’t always responsible and didn’t provide for them properly. They decided as adults to remember the good things about their parents and to forgive them for the negative way they were often treated.
The movie and book remind viewers to try to do the same thing, focus on all the good things we received from our parents, forgive their weaknesses and be grateful for their strengths. It also leads one to hope that our own children will be able to extend the same graciousness to us- loving us, forgiving our weaknesses as parents and remembering the good times in our relationships with fondness.
Who Do Family Stories Belong To?
Getting Nostalgic and a Little Sad
I saw the movie The Women’s Balcony at the Toronto International Film Festival Theatre this week. It reminded me of just how far we’ve come in giving women an equal place with men in religious institutions and just how far we still have to go.
The Women’s Balcony is a Hebrew film about a synagogue in Jerusalem being influenced by their new young conservative rabbi who wants women to worship separately from men in a closed room at the side of the temple. The women want to worship in an open balcony right in the same area as the men worship. Eventually the women leave their husbands because they are siding with the new rabbi. The women raise the money for a balcony and manage to get it built. They return to their husbands who facilitate the removal of the conservative rabbi and the return of their older more flexible rabbi. Progress has been made although the fact that official power in the synagogue still rests with a man, or that women still sit separately from their husbands in a balcony isn’t addressed in the film. Reading about the film later I learned it reflects the ongoing divide in Judaism between orthodox and liberal factions and their differing views of women’s roles in the church. Women are becoming more visible but are still far from equal.
Church at the Mennonite Village Museum with separate sides for men and women.
I can remember attending my grandparents’ church where men and women sat on different sides of the sanctuary. I grew up in a church where there were no women pastors or leaders. Thankfully those times have changed in some Christian churches but in others women still have no voice and are not represented in leadership at all. This lack of equality for women in the Southern Baptist Church is what led former American President Jimmy Carter to publicly announce he was leaving the denomination after his family had belonged to it for generations. A council created by my Mennonite denomination in 2016 to oversee a time of transition in our national church body contained eight men and one woman. Women were more visible than they would have been in the past but they still were far from equal.
In my lifetime women have gained greater representation and influence in religious spheres but the journey is far from complete.
Questions After Watching the Film Silence
The Children are Watching and Listening and Wondering
A Woman I Wish I Knew More About
A mother is furious with her son. He is dating a Caucasian American woman instead of one of the many eligible Pakistani girls she’s picked out for him. He’s confessed to his family that his Muslim faith feels meaningless. He’s announced that instead of becoming the lawyer his parents have always dreamed he would be, he’s off to New York City to pursue a career as a stand up comedian. The mother is so mad she stops speaking to her son and says he is no longer part of their family.
However…………. as he is packing his van to head off to New York his parents pull up in their car. His father gets out and walks over to hand his son a container of food saying something like …. “Here is food to eat as you travel. Your mother has made your favorite dish with extra potatoes just the way you like it.” The father goes on. “Your mother will not let me hug you but she would like you to text her when you get to New York so she knows you’ve arrived safely.”
The Pakistani parents are played by Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff .
I laughed out loud. Despite her grand show of disowning her son and being furious with him she still loves him and is concerned for his safety and well being.
The American parents are played by Holly Hunter and Ray Ramano.
The highlight of the movie The Big Sick for me was definitely watching the parents of the films’ two main characters, a Pakistani comedian and a female psychology student. The woman’s parents are quirky, straightforward and in crisis mode, but they obviously love their daughter desperately just as the young man’s parents love their son. This is a movie worth watching just to see four great actors do an excellent job of portraying parents in such a realistic and heart warming way.
He Watches, He Listens, He Thinks, He Writes
A Lot More Than We’d Like to Think
Three Lessons from Arrival
We saw the film I Daniel Blake last night. It documents two stories, that of a widowed 59-year-old carpenter named Daniel who’s had a recent heart attack and doctors have ordered not to work, and a single mother named Katie who has been forced to move to a different city to secure housing for herself and her two children. Try as she might Katie simply can’t find work in her new location. As the two are stymied time after time in their attempts to negotiate the welfare system they become friends and offer support to one another.
Both the young mother and the woodworker are good people, who honestly want to be self-sufficient. Circumstances and a rigid and less than compassionate government bureaucracy make it difficult for them to receive needed benefits. It drives them both to take some demeaning actions to survive.
The film illustrates just how easy it could be for hardworking, affable and intelligent people to become homeless and how reaching out to someone to make a connection can make a difference.
This is not a ‘feel good’ film or easy escapist fare. We overheard a man exiting the theatre say to his companion in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Thanks a lot for taking me to such a cheery movie.”
As we walked to our cars I asked my movie companions how many people like Daniel and Katie there could be right here in Winnipeg. “A lot more than we’d like to think,” one of them said.
Siloam Mission at the Art Gallery
Homelessness- Meeting With the Mayor
My Husband and the Pope Are On the Same Page
Folk artist Maud Lewis has become something of a celebrity in Mennonite circles in the last month. One of her paintings was discovered unexpectedly in a Mennonite Central Committee thrift store in New Hamburg Ontario and is now up for auction. Bids are already over the $100,000 mark.
My friend Esther introduced me to Maud Lewis and her colourful, lively paintings many years ago. I came to love Maud’s work and was excited to see her home when I visited the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Maud’s entire house has been carefully preserved in the gallery.
I kept this brochure from my visit to Maud’s house in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
When I was a high school teacher Maud was one of four Canadian artists whose life story and work I used in a grade eleven English unit I created called What is Art? I remember students writing poetry about Maud and submitting it on the decorated seats of old wooden chairs or on painted cookie sheets. Maud painted almost every surface in the small house she shared with her husband Everett including kitchen utensils and furniture.
You can see that process come to life in a new movie called Maudie which focuses on the relationship between folk artist Maud Lewis and her husband Everett. I own a well- read copy of a Maud Lewis biography by Lance Woolaver and think the relationship between Maud and her husband played by Ethan Hawke has been romanticized for the movie. In a CBC interview screenwriter Sherry White admits as much. Despite taking this licence the film gives us a memorable insight into the life of a Canadian artist many people may not even know.
We took this photo of Trinity Newfoundland while on a hike. It was not only a filming location for Maudie but also for the film The Shipping News.
My husband Dave was sure as we watched Maudie that some of the scenes from the movie must have been filmed in Trinity Newfoundland a place we visited last September. Sure enough a check of film locations proved he was right! But then he almost always is. Dave also thinks actress Sally Hawkins does an Oscar worthy job of playing Maud a woman of humour and determination whose body becomes more and more twisted by crippling arthritis as the film goes on. If you want to see if he is right about that you will have to go and see the film.
Transfering the Real to the Unreal
Hiking the Skerwink Trail- An Act of Worship
Paterson is calm and thoughtful. It is almost impossible to upset him. He follows basically the same routine every day. Gets up. Has cereal for breakfast. Drives his city bus route. Listens to his passengers talk to one another. Listens to his supervisor complain about his life. Goes home. Eats the supper his wife has prepared and listens to her tell him about her latest creative project- decorating cupcakes, making curtains or learning to play country music on the guitar. Takes his wife’s dog Marvin for a walk. Stops at the local pub for one beer and a chat with the bartender. Goes back home. Goes to bed.
But while Paterson is doing all these seemingly routine things he is also intimately observing the world around him, carefully considering every little thing he sees and listening thoughtfully to what people say. And then he writes poetry about his observations and reflections in a small brown notebook he keeps with him almost all the time. He rarely shows his wife these poems, never shows them or reads them to anyone else, and despite his wife’s constant urging never makes copies of them.
Paterson was the main character in a movie we saw last Sunday. The film moves quite slowly but in doing so invites the viewer to become calm and watch the story unfolding on the screen in the careful, patient, observant way of the film’s protagonist.
In conversation with my brother who saw the film with me, I realized that although my personality is quite different from Paterson’s we have some similarities. I also like to observe, listen, think and write about things I encounter each day. But unlike Paterson, who keeps his writing to himself, I have a need to share mine with others. Hence this blog.
Warms Your Heart and Makes You Laugh Out Loud
This is Just to Say
The Poetry of Boxing
Filed under Movies, Poetry