It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Tip O’Neill told us "all politics is local," and I suppose that applies as well to a cloistered religious order as to a city. "Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen" is about a remarkable 12th century woman named Hildegard von Bingen, who was cloistered with a Benedictine order at a young age and rose to become its leader, the author of spiritual books, a composer of music and an expert in herbal medicine. Although beatified, she was never elevated to sainthood, but is a saint for many feminists and holistic practitioners.
As embodied here by the powerful presence of Barbara Sukowa, she was a considerable woman, and succeeded in gaining almost everything she desired, despite a church hierarchy controlled by men. From the age of 4, she reported visions of God, and as these continued, they gave her authority and won her followers. Indeed, although in a cloister, she was permitted to go on speaking journeys and became quite widely known.
She also succeeded in moving her nuns from within the walls of the male monastery and building their own separate retreat, and then another. This she did despite the fierce objections of her superior, Abbot Kuno (Alexander Held), by appealing over his head to the local archbishop. Still refused permission, she apparently fell into a coma and was revived only by the presence of God. Or that is what she said.
What went on in the mind of this woman, essentially uneducated, who could not read the Scriptures but learned, wrote her books in her own modified alphabet and composed one of the largest surviving groups of Gregorian chant? That’s what fascinates the German writer-director, Margarethe von Trotta, who makes a choice to view Hildegard’s life in its externals and reveal few of the thoughts behind her sometimes forbidding facade. We never know what she’s thinking. That’s tantalizing.