Abel Ferrara’s Mary (2005)

Some say every blockbuster movie has its independent or ambitious equivalent. If it is indeed true, Ferrara’s Mary could be such equivalent for The Da Vinci Code. At least sort of. Needless to say, it dispenses with the search and pursue scenario of the latter and instead concentrates on the search for spirituality, or more precisely, for the meaning of the story of Christ, in contemporary world. The three central stories of Ted Younger, a NYC TV show host, the iconoclastic and self-centered director Tony Childress, who makes a movie about the life of Christ and Maria Magdalene, and the actress Marie Palesi, who, having starred in Childress’ movie, decides to seek enlightenment and departs for Jerusalem are beautifully and intricately interwoven. If this even starts to sound didactic, remember this is Ferrara so no degree of preaching is to be found here. Instead, in the mere 85 minutes of the movie the director opens up so many pathways for reflection that it seems almost impossible to start follow all of them after one viewing. Messy relationships, religious intolerance, the conflict in Israel, Hollywood’s take(s) on the myth of Jesus – these are only a few lines worth pursuing here.

What I find really wonderful in this strangely slow-paced although intense movie is its refusal to come to easy conclusions and glib summaries – the conclusion leaves most of the narrative strands up in the air. Regardless of the fact that Mary has a clearly structured narrative, it also has a special collage-like, impressionistic character which invests it with the slowness (in a positive sense). Very recommendable.

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