This movie was a disappointment. The viewer coming to the film without a knowledge of who Hildegard of Bingen was and her significance is likely to leave the movie in almost the same condition. Why nine hundred years after her life is she still discussed? This movie will not answer that question.
The plot is minimal and predictable. It tells the story of Hildegard's becoming a nun, becoming the head of her group of sisters, starting her own nunnery, her conflicts with male authorities, and her relations with political authorities. At least as presented in Vision, this is not riveting. Neither the photography nor the acting is very impressive.
While the movie alludes to Hildegard's musical works, her scientific and medical interests, and devotes time to her visions, we do not receive a coherent well developed picture of the woman and her accomplishments. And that is a disappointment since Hildegard was an interesting person.
In short, Hildegard the person simply is not the same as Vision the movie. A movie reviewer ought not confuse the two.
To cite just two points on which a more enterprising film might have focused:
(1) For all of the movie's talk of Hildegard's visions, no effort is made to present them visually. That could have been quite dramatic cinema. Even if the budget constrained dramatic staging of the visions, a skillful writer would have used a plot device (such as manuscript illuminations or wall paintings) for graphic effect. It would have provided us with some feel as to their power and impact on her contemporaries. Alas, instead the movie has Hildegard narrating small disconnected passages without any real vitality.
(2) The movie ends just as Hildegard is going out to preach. She made four such trips and apparently they had major impacts throughout the Rhineland. Yet we do not see those trips. Undoubtedly they could have been presented in very dramatic fashion. Alas again, the movie misses a great cinematic opportunity.
One final point before closing. Yes, Hildegard is a strong woman resisting domination by male Church leaders, a creative artist, and an interesting intellectual figure. Unfortunately her legacy is not wholly uncontroversial. Some of her visions are profoundly anti-semitic. During the Second Crusade of 1147, the Jewish communities of the Rhineland were massacred. While Bernard denounced these mobs, Hildegard was silent. Wouldn't a more balanced picture of Hildegard have shown these moral failures? It might have made for a more interesting movie.
The cast is wonderful, some of the scenes are well done, but alas, the movie takes significant liberties with history and leaves out some of the most dramatic pieces of the story.
I find it incomprehensible how anyone could make a movie dealing with Elizabeth and the defeat of the Armada and omit the core of her famous speech to the English army at Tilbury, namely the line "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and of a King of England too!" Everyone familiar with the story is sitting waiting for Elizabeth to deliver that line, one of the greatest inspirational speeches in British history. It ought be the dramatic highlight of the movie. However, alas, it is not there. How can a screen writer not use such material?
Perhaps as bad is the role that the movie assigns Raleigh in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. During the entire fight up the Channel, Raleigh was never at sea. His responsibilities were on the land, defending the coast of Devonshire. Placing him on a fire ship targeted at the anchored Spanish fleet is the purist fiction.
Other lesser omissions and errors could also be cited. The result is to leave this viewer disappointed.
The tale of the 47 ronin is one of the great Japanese tales, forming one of the central traditional bases of the national character. It concerns an actual historical incident that occurred in 1701 to 1703. For three centuries the story has been taught to school children. It teaches the values of loyalty, self-sacrifice, honor, and integrity, even in the face of certain death. Those not familiar with the story can find numerous accounts on the web (e.g., on Wikipedia).
Sadly this movie version is a disappointment. It simply does not really engage the viewer. Many key points of the story are omitted, even though the movie is 209 minutes! If I did not already know the tale from other sources, I would have had difficulty understanding the context or significance of much of the action. This great epic deserves much better.
Over the last two weeks I watched the six hours of the American release DVDs. Given some of the things that I had heard about this film, I was expecting much more. Alas, on key points I was less than overwhelmed. At least in the American six hour version there are several discontinuities and unexplained points that detract from the overall effect.
To cite one example: Initially both Giulia and Nicola support the student demonstrations. Yet as the story continues, Nicola focuses on his psychiatric career and their daughter, while Giulia abandons her music and turns away from them to go underground as a revolutionary. Why? Without offering an explanation, we are left wondering why her entire life took such a trajectory.
Is this an issue in the full length original or just in the six hour version?
Still, the movie was fairly nice. It was just not as powerful as I had hoped.