Fátima is a fascinating glimpse of Catholic faith, respectfully translated to the screen by Marco Pontecorvo.
Blinded by the Lightby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Fátima is still a place of pilgrimage in Portugal. It’s where, in 1917, three children herding sheep in the countryside near Coimbra had a vision of the Virgin Mary (Joana Ribeiro), who appeared to them robed in white and barefoot. It was eventually deemed a miracle by the Catholic Church.
The eldest child, Lucia (Stephanie Gil) was the main recipient of her advice. It was directed towards what Lucia could do to achieve peace, something much needed at a time of turmoil. Portugal had recently become a republic after a revolution and was embroiled in a world war, with the resultant deaths of its young men, their names read out in the public square to their grief-stricken families by the mayor. The Virgin also said that she would appear once a month.
When the story of the children’s vision comes out, despite their families trying to keep it secret, there’s opposition from Lucia’s mother (Lúcia Moniz, Love Actually) the church (Father Ferreira, Joaquim de Almeida) and the local mayor (Goran Visnjic). But Lucia sticks steadfastly to her incredible story and as the news spreads, pilgrims start to arrive to watch Lucia apparently talking to the Virgin Mary, although only Lucia can actually see her.
The film ploddingly follows the true story of the historical happenings, interspersed by 1989-set scenes of a rather unlikely Harvey Keitel as an author interviewing adult Lucia (played by the wonderful Sonia Braga), now an elderly nun in a convent. Despite their different viewpoints on religion, they talk about it with mutual respect. (The real Lucia died in 2005 at the age of 97.)
The main action of Fátima takes place in a pinky-beigey sepia-shot past. The film as a whole looks beautiful, thanks perhaps to its director Marco Pontecorvo’s cinematography background. He is, incidentally, the son of Gillo Pontecorvo, director of the legendary The Battle of Algiers.
Dialogue is – rather unexpectedly and not entirely successfully – in English, with some actors speaking with American accents, some with European. The visions arrive in a bright light as part of nature out of the breezes that move the trees, though there also is a CGI sequence of hell.
Fátima is released in cinemas and on demand on 25 June 2021 in the UK.