'Lourdes' is a film with an interesting concept, one that has its obvious upside and downside. Faith. The kind of faith where all sorts of science says something shouldn't, and can't, happen, yet that shred of hope and optimism remains...or even dominates the negativity brought forth by medical science. Now, whether or not you believe a deity of any sort could be a wish granter, that will definitely factor in heavily on how one views this particular film. If you're like Stephen or Alex Kendrick, and believe that God is a genie, then this film may quite possibly be your must-own Blu-ray of the year, regardless of film quality. If you, however, find people who wish and wish and wish, instead of doing for themselves and others, to be delusional at best...amazingly, this may also be the film for you. How that works, I'm not quite sure, but 'Lourdes' manages this rare feat.
'Lourdes' is heavily religious. The entire premise is steeped in belief, faith, and miracle. A young woman (Sylvie Testud, 'La Vie en Rose'), suffering from multiple sclerosis, is wheelchair ridden, paralyzed from the neck down. Alongside a number of fellow pilgrims, all suffering various maladies, she is in a touring group at the religious gathering place, seeking a possible miracle. She doesn't speak much, doesn't rile feathers, and doesn't ask anything; in her confessions, her guilt over her negative feelings due to her place in life seem to concern her more than her own physical disability. When a miracle does, indeed, happen, and the woman slowly regains control of her body, all those around her are envious, jealous that she was given a second lease at life while they weren't.
I'll admit, I was taken aback by 'Lourdes.' I'm by no means a religious person. While I went into this viewing with an open mind, to judge the film for its merits and qualities rather than its message, I found myself incapable of doing such. Reason being, the message in this film is so strong, that it bypasses that of belief and faith. This is not a film about religion, and those suffering, looking for an escape. This is a film about people, and human interaction, and how perceptions change along with circumstances. As such, it's really, really a wonderful, quite different film experience.
'Lourdes' doesn't tell us the main character's name (her billing on IMDb will be disregarded). As such, she's an every-person, a face without a name. Her only escape into the real world being these excursions, she doesn't seem as hopeful and selfish as the rest in her group, looking not so much for answers as she is an experience. In fact, not once does she act selfishly in any manner. She's a pure character, incapable of doing bodily wrong, yet also unwilling to to be less than true and giving in spirit and heart. She suffers somewhat in silence, without objecting, without tears or the desire for pity. As 'Lourdes' goes on, our connection with her grows, she is truly a great character.
It's amazing, though, that we see the nature of everyone around her, in what may be the real purpose of the film. The negativity, the selfishness, on display even before the miracle takes place, allows us to connect all the more to the character representative more of an ideal than anything. The inherent ugliness of humanity is on display, as the pettiness of all those, even in a holy place, comes to light quite regularly, from the help who sometimes abandon their posts and disturb their charges, to those wondering, even aloud, why they weren't chosen, why they weren't given a miracle. It seems the character with the least faith is given the biggest blessing, and this leaves everyone in her group questioning, particularly the will and acts of their God.
Watching 'Lourdes' is quite the experience, as it's a very unique, different affair from most modern films. We have a more historic approach, with lots of still shots, rather than spots of movement or tracking. The pace is astonishingly slow, with so much time spent establishing characters (even if audiences don't recognize it due to how well it's done here!) that by the time the miracle happens, it feels as though two hours have passed. But this isn't a bad kind of slow, as 'Lourdes' is a film that thankfully lasts longer than its runtime, as it sucks you into its story, and more particularly, its message.
I personally don't believe in miracles, and I adamantly loathe those who wish for them, asking for change rather than making it themselves and being better for it. So, perhaps my enjoyment of this film preaches to the fact that 'Lourdes' works wonders in not only developing reason to believe in what we're being shown, the characters and the events, but also questioning faith with ration, where character outweighs belief, purity trumping greed, teaching about purity of spirit above all else. In a sense, this film is ideal for the religious to show the wonders and miracles faith can provide, and those who want a more practical answer to life. This is not a film about religion, no matter how steeped in imagery (and let me say, the imagery is beyond gorgeous) it may be. It is about people, about humanity. As such, this film can be universally appreciated.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Lourdes' arrives on Blu-ray from Palisades Tartan as a "spotlight" title, on a BD25 disc with Region A markings. There are three trailers pre-menu that must be skipped individually. The menu itself is static with no audio, and a weird anomaly that with every loop, it seems, a real quick black screen flashes, prompting the same image.
This has nothing to do with the disc, but this release has one of the ugliest spines on Blu-ray, period. It is about 75 percent "Palisades Tartan Spotlight," 15 percent logos, and 10 percent the actual title of the film. Ugly!
Palisades Tartan Blu-ray releases have been hit or miss, in terms of video quality, making this section often the make or break portion of each title in their catalog. 'Lourdes,' presented in 1080p, is one of their better looking titles, though it has some hang ups that make it a bit less sparkling, changing this release from a highly recommended title to one that is just regular recommended.
The positives on this release outweigh the negatives. Detail levels in backgrounds and settings are quite strong, picture depth is absolutely fantastic, textures are wonderful, and colors retain clarity and solidity throughout, making for a very pleasant viewing experience. Shadow detail is absolutely great, skin tones are natural, and stray hairs pop quite wonderfully.
The negatives are mostly small gripes, with one big one. The major issue is ringing, as there is a regular amount of this particular video anomaly, enough so to drop the transfer down significantly, as it rears its head frequently in the picture. Noise isn't regular, but can be annoying. Facial details are hit or miss, and there is a nighttime shot that is an absolute waste, losing any real distinction in the picture. I noticed very minor aliasing and jaggies, as well.
Not everyone is going to see the same thing on this one, as I do believe display size will play a dramatic role on how well this title is received, visually. At 65", my display wasn't shy about pointing out the issues, no matter how small they were, so I can't imagine how this one would look at 120".
'Lourdes' may very well be an example of a Blu-ray release of a film that stretches outwards of its genre's conventions, to provide a much fuller audio experience.
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is actually much more active than one would expect for a film of this nature. Dialogue features pitch perfect dynamics, while rooms are always appropriate in terms of activity, spreading through channels freely when appropriate, creating a much more immersive audio experience. There's great range on display, as well as solid prioritization. The soundtrack for the film actually has some depth to it, as well, with moments with nice bass heft, filling the room naturally.
This isn't a top tier track, as it still lacks in terms of localization, but for what it is, this track is quite excellent!
There is an option to view any of the three pre-menu trailers in the supplements tab. Kinda redundant, but okie dokey.
'Lourdes' may be the most surprising film I've seen in some time. I went in blind to the story, holding back my personal beliefs, and what I saw was a film that could be appreciated by anyone, regardless of religion. This film is beautiful, a story of humanity and spirit, that may be steeped in religion, but doesn't rely on the unexplainable to succeed. This Blu-ray release is solid, with good video and very good audio, though the supplements leave a lot to be desired. I can't recommend this film enough, and with a good Blu-ray, this one earns an easy recommendation. I doubt the replay value of this feature, but not for one second do I doubt the power of the messages nor the beauty of the experience. This is what filmmaking is all about.