Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Movie Review: Therese ***

I was very excited to see this film in the video store, but on the whole was quite disappointed with it. Comparing it to the actual life and writings of St. Therese of Lisieux is like comparing one of the saccharine pictures of her (holding a bouquet of roses and much prettier than in real life) to an actual photograph. Nice - maybe inspiring, but superficial and insipid when placed next to the real thing.

One of the big mistakes I think the makers of the film made, unless their goal was an introductory hagiography, was to attempt to portray Therese's entire life, at least beginning shortly before her mother's death. Even a relatively uneventful 15-20 years cannot be covered in any depth in an hour and a half. Also, even though she has a few crying spells, she is still shown as an almost perfect human being right from the beginning, so I didn't really get a sense of her spiritual struggle and growth. In addition, the passivity with with she is portrayed almost completely dilutes the power of her "little way." I believe that the French film mentioned by one of the other reviewers concentrated on the period of her illness and death, and was able to show her life and personality in much more depth.

A couple of things that could have been brought out or portrayed even in this version: the fact that Therese was made Mistress of Novices, entrusted with the spiritual direction of women who were sometimes older than herself; her relationship with the saintly old Mother Superior who died during her time at Carmel; and more than a glancing reference to the writing of the manuscripts that were published as The Story of a Soul.

However, if this movie inspires people to go out and read Therese’s writing (I also recommend the biography The Story of a Life by Msgr. Guy Gaucher, which is where I first encountered her), I suppose it will have fulfilled its purpose.

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