Somehow in the last week I've ended up watching two somewhat disturbing films with religious persecution as their main theme. Both were difficult to watch, and yet both resonated with me very deeply. These are the 'horror' films that I like to watch. They are period movies, but based during very frightening times.
The first is Ken Russell's The Devils, made in 1971. It is interesting to note that Ken Russell also directed The Boyfriend, a campy musical that starred Twiggy that I often rented from the library and watched with my siblings growing up. It stars a young Vanessa Redgrave as the hunchbacked Sister Jeanne of The Angels, who fantasizes about Father Grandier, played by Oliver Reed. It follows the true story of a group of nuns in Loudon, France, who claimed to have been posessed by the priest. It is based off a book by Alduous Huxley that I am interested in finding. The dialogue is incredible, the production and direction is heavily stylized, and the acting is superb. For those of us raised with any Christian values, some of the footage is going to be truly disturbing, but overall is completely worth it to see a flame haired Vanessa Redgrave flailing around on the ground with her freakish hunch screaming "I'M BEAUTIFUL! NOOOOoooo I'M BEAUTIFUL!!" I literally COULD NOT get up from the couch.
Goya's Ghosts came out in 2006, and it starred Natalie Portman and Javier Bardem. While the film boasts gorgeous set and costume design and a heavy dose of beautiful Spain, it suffers from an 'aimless' narrative. The story itself is unconventional, but should still work, were it not for the very conventional score. The music in the film is TERRIBLE, and I believe, what truly prevents the flick from reaching its full potential. Even though the plot doesn't have the traditional arc that we are used to seeing onscreen, (none of the characters really change or evolve except for the worse, a lot is left unexplained.) this formula could still work. It is a very unique and unexplored time and place in history, and rather than letting the events unfold, the music sets us up for things that don't happen. I was furious- it pisses me off to see a good period piece ruined by cheesy music. If the film was scored by Philip Glass, it would have received MUCH better reviews.
More on Goya's Ghosts and tragic beauty here.