Dietrich Brüggemann / Germany / 2014 / 107 mins
Arriving from Berlinale, where it picked up the Silver Bear for Best Script, is Dietrich Brüggemann’s crushingly grave portrayal of the vice-like grip religious fundamentalism has over youngsters. Telling of an ultra-ecclesiastical family in Germany, Brüggemann presents a formalist revelation in fourteen single-shot chapters, which twin the stages of Christ’s Crucifixion with the life of pious teenager Maria (Lea van Acken). Under tyrannical scrutiny from her American Gothic mother (Franziska Weisz), bullying at school and the radical view that she may offer her life as a sacrifice to God, Brüggemann’s twisted drama counsels on the perils of extreme beliefs.
Equally as precise as Brüggemann’s narrative is the filmmaking itself: wide-angle lenses which present rigid frames to rival even that of the protagonists’ views. The great paradox of Maria’s trial is that her wish to live forever with God means giving up the actual will to live. But at the risk of telegraphing heart-breaking and galling indoctrination, Brüggemann and sister Anna inject the script with bleak flashes of comedy, from the “satanic influences” of jazz music to the quadratic math problems used as chat-up lines. While the cast can deliver either desperately pensive or overzealous performances, Stations of the Cross is often a stunningly artful vision of religious fortitude and arrogance thwarting our right to individual freedom.