CLFF Review: The Passion of Michelangelo

The Passion of Michelangelo Chile | 2012 | 97 min. Director: Esteban Larraín |  Drama

Saturday, April 13, 2013, 4:30 pm at AMC Loews Theatres

Monday, April 15, 2013, 6:30 pm at AMC Loews Theatres

By 1983 Augusto Pinochet was in his 10th year in office as both the “President” of Chile and its military commander-in-chief. The Passion of Michelangelo portrays the actions of the government’s propaganda machine and its efforts to legitimize and endear itself to the nation’s ultra religious rural and impoverished population.

Or does it?

Miguel Angel is a young orphan who claims that he can see and converse with the Virgin Mary on a hilltop in Peñablanca, a remote village in rural Chile. When the film begins, we encounter a priest fighting his way through throngs of people making a pilgrimage to see the miracle boy in action and be present as he communicates with the blessed virgin.  Like the others in the crowd, Father Ruiz-Tagel, a Dana Skully type skeptic, is there to observe the goings on. Unlike the other pilgrims, he has been sent by the leaders of the church to investigate so that an official statement can be made about the alleged miracles. This scene sets the tone for the entire film; the priest makes his way to the hilltop and encounters an eccentric young man in the middle of the crowd looking to the heavens seemingly in conversation with his patron. He mumbles a message to a portly priest in a cassock who relays the message to the adoring crowd: “The virgin has come to Chile to save souls!”

The next events leave the viewer to their own wits to decide legitimacy. Miguel Angel bolts to his feet, looks to the sky and points to a formation in the clouds and announces that the virgin has appeared, the crowd looks up and “sees” it. Following this, Miguel Angel falls to his knees in agony and reveals that he is bleeding from his forehead, reminiscent of the Stigmata.

This film takes the viewer on a journey of faith, doubt, and cautious skepticism. The events portrayed are displayed in a manner which allow you to decide whether Miguel Angel was indeed speaking to the Virgin Mary or if he was just a young man taking advantage of an oppressive regime to garner support.

The filmmakers did an excellent job in their portrayal of this narrative. In the main character Miguel Angel, they managed to create a person that is so unlikeable that one doesn’t have a choice but to relish in his eventual downfall. At the same time, they’ve made him so human and infused with pathos that when he falls from grace you actually cringe and feel sorry for him, seeing him for what he is: a confused and extremely misguided young man. The acting in this film was absolutely superb, the character development could have been a bit stronger, and the overall story was very well told.

In sum, this film is definitely worth watching.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars