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iffr: hadewijch

Modern mysticism at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, with Bruno Dumont's new film 'Hadewijch', a thoughtful meditation as austere and introspective as its troubled heroine.

The story is like a religious parable, cryptic and open to endless interpretation. A novice at a convent, who has taken the name of Hadewijch, the thirteenth century Dutch mystic, is sent back into the world because the nuns worry about her martyred fervor. (They tell her she's a "caricature of a nun".)

Hadewijch - 1

Back in Paris she befriends a Muslem boy and his brother, a student of Islam. While God and Allah are shown to be one as a matter of course, and pose no scriptural problems, it leads her into a wholly different interpretation - or rather implementation - of her faith.

Without giving away all Dumont's puzzle pieces, suffice to say his nuanced treatment of the complex and 'internal' theme of mystical struggle is quite an achievement, carried to no small degree by a stunning performance by debutante Julie Sokolowski (Hadewijch).

Hadewijch - 2

As the Islam student tells us, God is both omnipresent and absent, both the most visible and most invisible, but he will manifest himself only in devotion. 'Hadewijch' manages to convey something of both God's desperate absence and beatific presence.

See also this overview of reviews and this conversation with Bruno Dumont.

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