Undimmed

‘Vision: From the Life of Hildegard of Bingen’

Born in Berlin during World War II, the director Margarethe von Trotta has built her career on the rocky terrain of modern German history, taking up both the war itself and its political and cultural aftershocks. Rosenstrasse (2003) chronicled the wartime struggle of German gentiles with Jewish husbands. The Promise (1995) told of two lovers separated during an escape from East Berlin. And Marianne and Juliane (1981) followed two sisters from a religious home, avid to fight injustice; one becomes a journalist, the other (modeled after Gudrun Ensslin of the notorious Red Army Faction) a terrorist. The film was one of many, loosely grouped as New German Cinema, which assessed the fractious, at times toxic quality of the era in Germany, reflecting the so-called Achtundsechsiger (“68er”) generation’s demand for a moral and political reckoning delayed by their fathers. 

A quiet film about a twelfth-century nun might seem unlikely ground for von Trotta. But she’s also a feminist director who has focused on the political and intellectual struggles of women in a world dominated by men. She’s fascinated by sisterhood, both literal and figurative, and so it’s fitting that she devotes her new film, Vision, to Blessed Hildegard of Bingen, the...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper, one of Commonweal's film critics, is the author of two works of fiction, The Last To Go and Big as Life.