dir. by Xavier Giannoli
dir. Maggie Betts
„We Have a Pope“
dir. Nanni Moretti
From 22 to 24 August, the Arvo Pärt Centre film evenings are being held for the eighth time.
Three films that feature Arvo Pärt’s music prominently are being screened at this year’s Arvo Pärt Centre film evenings. The shared title for the three films might be Thoroughness of Belief, as there is a common tension between trust, belief and doubt in each of them. We cannot say that doubt is central to any religious activity. In fact, it is rather the opposite—faith often eliminates doubts and provides perseverance. However, there are dramatic occurrences and moments when crises of faith develop an extreme urgency and inevitability. Whether these are trials sent by God or Satan, or are simply part of the rational human condition, is left to the viewer to decide.
Moments of doubt in faith provide a good subject for filmmakers, because this is where religious sublimity and greatness meet human weakness in its most basic form. There are myriad mysteries associated with religious life; many things remain inexplicable, and from time to time, both ordinary people and religious leaders may lose their religious faith. This year’s films address both of these extremes. As an additional theme, all three films deal with the role of the Catholic Church in our modern world.
The film nights open with the most recent of the three films, L’Apparition (The Apparition), directed by Xavier Giannoli (2018), which focuses on the concept of apparition, its birth and consequences. In the present-day narrative, a skilled war journalist is sent by the Vatican to explore the legitimacy of a manifestation of the Virgin Mary in a small French village. Set up as a thriller, the film also addresses the phenomenon of religious tourism, which attracts masses of pilgrims. The soundtrack to L’Apparition features several works by Arvo Pärt, including his rather rarely performed Beatus Petronius and Mein Weg hat Gipfel und Wellenthäler, as well as Stabat Mater and the more frequently featured Summa and Fratres. Especially unexpected for Estonians is the fact that the film’s soundtrack also features Singer’s Childhood, a runic song arrangement by Veljo Tormis.
The setting for Novitiate—the directorial debut of Maggie Betts who won the Special Jury Prize – Breakthrough Director Award for the film at the Sundance Film Festival—is the United States in the second half of the 1960s. The film tells the story of the religious awakening of a young girl from a non-religious family. The events of the Second Vatican Council, which reformed 20th-century theology and the Catholic Church intensely, provide a background for the plot, with its innovations also contributing to the determination of the young novice’s life. This film also features several compositions by Arvo Pärt, with the audience being treated to Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen, Lamentate, My Heart’s in the Highlands and Spiegel im Spiegel.
The best-known director of this year’s film nights, the Italian Nanni Moretti, achieved great success in 2011 with his tragicomic film, Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope) which was screened at festivals as well as in cinemas. With intellectual wit, the film describes the religious hesitations of a cardinal chosen as the new Pope at the critical moment where he should step on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to be introduced to the crowds as the new Pope. European cinema legend Michel Piccoli, who plays the part of the protagonist, makes the role entirely his own, while the atheist director himself plays a psychiatrist who is called to counsel the new head of the church.
A long excerpt of several minutes from Arvo Pärt’s Miserere can be heard at the culmination of the film.