(Chile, France 2012 98m) Cine Arte Normandie
p Esteban Larraín, André Logie, Marcelo Céspedes, Enrique Lerman, Oliver Röpke d Esteban Larraín w Esteban Larraín, José Román c Tevo Díaz ed Felipe Guerrero, Soledad Salfate s Ricardo Santander
a Sebastián Ayala, Claudia Celedón, Patricio Contreras, Roberto Farías, Catalina Saavedra, Alejandro Sieveking, Ramón Núñez, Aníbal Reyna, Luis Dubó, Grimanesa Jiménez, Carolina Carrasco, Mireya Morena, Vilma Verdejo, Claudia Cordera, Carmen Disa Gutierrez, Pablo Aravena, Samuel Flores
Part of the dream of every (or most) filmmaker(s) was finally fulfilled, we finally had an audiovisual tale (at least, part of a tale, and, look, it’s even interesting!) of what really happened during those months at the village of Peñablanca in the 1980’s, when the dictatorship was still making its worse movements towards the citizenship of the people as well as maiming their liberties (it is noted early in the film how the government is in a tight spot and how the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Peñablanca serves as an important and interesting scapegoat for them to use), in those months thousands of people claimed (and could even swear) that they saw the Virgin Mary in the skies of Peñablanca, who communicated to the citizenfolk through Miguel Ángel (that later would call himself Michelangelo). Nevertheless, the facts and what really happened has so many twists and turns depending on who you’re asking (“Ruido” by Álvaro Bisama is a novel that tries to take another approach to the same event) is why this movie ultimately falls short, one has the sensation that you are waiting for a sequel, as if there would be another filmmaker that would make the definitive film about the case of Peñablanca, as if this was nothing more like a taste (same approach that I had when I watched ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (2012), a better film about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden will come in the future and it would be much better), but for now it is what we have, and it’s good enough.
But, when looking at the specificities of the picture itself, more than being the fictional representation of a real happening, ‘La pasión de Michelangelo’ takes different paths to put the viewer under an uncertainity towards the facts that are put in the screen, and it is in those elements in which the film finds its strength, it is because it uses the elements of belief and what really goes inside a person who believes (or not) in what happens. The main character of the priest seems to be the perfect authority in terms of deciding wether the events in Peñablanca are nothing more than a fluke, a fiasco, a trap to amass followers into a numb status that would lead to the government’s stronger grip unto the faith of the people: using faith as an element of fear and at the same time unity in terms of being calm at what is happening and just obeying to what the fierce authorities are saying; yet, at the same time, the priest has a (late) development in which he is dubious of his own beliefs, making it all the more confusing for the audience to follow in the thread of lies and obscure facts that are being woven. In a way, the film uses the doubt of the represented fact as a way of representing the doubts all around the event, in a way, its questioning goes beyond the one of the fact; along with the us of scenes with a clear symbolic value, it finds its way in the fine line that separates the mere coincidence with the convincement that is articulated through the mechanisms of faith, that in regards to miracles and the apparitions. It is, in the end, a circus that separates the believer from the sceptical, you couldn’t ask for more at the time in which the event took place, it was a place of confrontation and delicate historial context.
The film itself meanders around with the presentations of Michelangelo, hinting (and sometimes blatantly showing) a conspiracy that is behind everything that is said, but when it should become more interesting (when the now self named Michelangelo takes control of what he says and how he appears in front of people) is when the film deflates, it becomes the portrait of someone who truly believes that he is doing something good, or maybe the portrait of someone who needs and craves for the attention because of his orphanage status, it never becomes clear as the film itself never takes a full stance on the whole issue as well (but it doesn’t wait to point fingers at the dictatorship as the ones guilty of the whole blown-up event). No doubt that the film, without being a masterpiece, has the taste of a remake of a Holy Week movie, certainly recommendable specially to those who miss those kind of films, it’s not about believing in God or the Holy Virgin, but because of that blind belief of a forgotten town in Chile is more than enough to leave the cinema with a fleeting feeling of wanting to believe in something.
This review was co-written by Jaime Grijalba and Gabriela Valencia.