Friday, March 21, 2014

Movie Review: The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952)

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952) directed by John Brahm

Three peasant children have a vision in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, of a lovely lady who asks them to come back for six months on the thirteenth. More importantly, she asks them to pray for peace in the world. Portugal in 1917 is still struggling under an atheistic government (the product of a socialist revolution in 1910) that tries to suppress religious sentiments in the people. A small town like Fatima seems an unlikely place for an outburst of religious fervor, the kind of which makes authorities nervous. Word gets around and people start coming to see the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask for her intercession in the subsequent months.

The film is a reasonably good survey of the events of 1917, providing enough of the revolution history to show the dangers coming from the government (it does seem slightly motivated by Cold War attitudes as well as by dramatic impact). The children, Lucia and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta, are simple and pious. They refuse to deny the visions in spite of opposition from Lucia's mother, their parish priest, and the local magistrate. A ne'er-do-well adult by the name of Hugo is added as a cynical advocate for the children. He helps in practical matters but has no faith at the start of the movie. He's the most colorful character even though his arc from rapscallion to believer is fairly obvious from the moment he shows up. Most of the other people (aside from Lucia's mother) are not fleshed out enough. The end of the movie gives the (then) most recent history of pilgrims flocking to the church built on the site of the apparitions, along with an older Hugo and Lucia talking about their lives.

The story of the apparitions in Fatima is an interesting one and has had a great impact on the Catholic faith in the twentieth century. But the film, as accurate as it is, is also a bit too sweet and plays it too safe. The socialists are clearly bad guys, but they never actually hurt people other than putting them in jail and closing the church. A scene where the magistrate threatens to boil the children in oil slowly is a bit scary, but the most actual discomfort the children are put through is banishment to a furnished room and later, a jail cell full of ruffians who wind up praying the rosary with the children (possibly my favorite scene in the film). The dramatic tension is never very tight; the stakes never seem high. The movie isn't bad except for being bland. The actors playing Lucia and Hugo were quite good.

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