THE Church is facing another onslaught from film-makers. After the furore over The Da Vinci Code, it is now contending with an allegedly blasphemous account of the life of St Teresa of Ávila.
Geraldine Chaplin heads the cast of Teresa: Death and Life, a feature film about one of the great Christian figures.
The writings of the saint — a mystic who said that Christ conversed with her — are revered as spiritual masterpieces four centuries after her death.
But film-makers don’t do spirituality as easily as sexuality and, in exploring the saint’s sex life, they find themselves accused of treading sacrilegiously.
The film was denounced by Benedicta Ward, a nun and Reader in the History of Christian Spirituality in the Theology Faculty at Oxford University, who wrote the introduction to a recent edition of the saint’s celebrated work, Life.
On being told about the film’s content, she said: “The stress on her virginity and her sexuality are entirely modern interests — as if she were living now. That’s not fair. She is the greatest of the mystics. She has visions and writes about them and analyses them in an extraordinary way.”
The film, a Spanish, French and British co-production, is written and directed by Ray Loriga, who worked with Pedro Almodóvar on the script of Live Flesh.
He was prepared for a possible controversy, but said: “The vision we have been offered of St Teresa is very close to a holy image. So far, everybody has been careful not to touch on certain uncomfortable subjects — her sexuality, her relationship with God, which was so close, nearly skin to skin.
Alright first I must calm down and say three times slowly the words of St. Teresa “Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All thing pass” Okay I am breathing normally again.
Loriga said: “I’m convinced she’ll be the sexiest Saint Teresa ever seen on screen. Teresa was also a very pretty woman. In my opinion, her pleasing aspect helped to save her from the stake. Very likely, plainer and less sassy women were burnt alive for less.”
He said he had taken care not to portray the Church as the “bad guy”, but added: “I think that the conflict between the Catholic Church and women hasn’t been resolved.
“So far, they’ve only offered two models to women — The Virgin Mother, which, in my opinion, is an aberration and quite harmful to women, and the redeemed whore symbolised by Mary Magdalene. These role models worry me. The Church hasn’t been able to find a better explanation for women within the context of our relationship with God.”
Oops there goes the heart rate again. Bad enough to go after St. Teresa, but to say the model of the Virgin Mary is quite harmful to women is over the top. Plus the stupidity to say that the Church has only offered two models to women ignores the multitude of women canonized and three women Doctors of the Church.
The problem with most modern filmmakers is that they can only see things through modern eyes. Every strong women in history must be translated into some kind of proto-feminist. Look at all the modern films of Joan of Arc; none which are worth seeing and nothing to come close to the masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc. Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw were both able to write of St. Joan of Arc and not translate their own atheistic biases onto them. This ability has pretty much not been brought into modern times with film makers seeing through morose colored glasses where the idea of the joy of the true mystic can not shine through.
Future saint Edith Stein read St. Teresa’s autobiography in one night and proclaimed “This is truth!,” people watching this movie on the life of St. Teresa will proclaim “This is crap!” It is amazing how they can do movies on Kinsey and the Marque de Sade and make them into a hagiography, yet a true saint and mystic they have to go the other way.
There is an eight part Spanish mini-series called “Teresa de Jesús” (1984) which sometimes runs on EWTN. This series for me really catches the heart of St. Teresa. There are some great scenes in it. For instance one where they have started up their first Discalced Carmelite convent and are singing a song about their itchy habits and bugs. For me it captured the humor of St. Teresa and I could easily imagine the scene occurring.
St. Teresa of Avila pray for us.
Your mention of the heart rate fits exactly what I did reading this. We must continue to pray for our world.
*Groan* I guess actual history and biography (you know- the kind based in the REAL WORLD) don’t have any place in the progressive worldview.
Loriga claims St. Teresa was spared a burning at the stake because she was so very pretty. There are so many wild assertions in that thought pattern I really hope he doesn’t live in a country where he might potentially have to serve on a jury.
This reminds me of the time a full grown adult tried to convince me, with all sincerity, that Jacques Cousteau wasn’t really a marine biologist — he was a really drug runner. The evidence? Well… he traveled to so many places!
The first words out of my wife’s mouth when I read her this article was, “Aren’t these people afraid of Hell?”
Years ago there was a wonderful Spanish tv production of the life of Teresa of Avila. Now this.
You know this is going to be bad just from the cliches he spews.
Here’s the best case scenario: people all over America buy millions of copies of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography, actually read it all the way through, experience deep conversions of the heart, and there’s a deep revival of faith across the world. Satan realizes his plan to defile her reputation failed, and decides never again to mess with the life of a saint through movies. And once Satan’s influence is off Hollywood, they begin producing quality movies. And everyone gets a pony for Christmas.
The most likely scenario: a crappy movie that causes a ton of furor before it opens and then closes with a whimper when everyone realizes it, unlike the saint’s life, has no substance. :-b
I’ve been rereading The Dumb Vinci Code just to make sure it’s as stoopid as I thought the first time. Yup. My favorite bonehead line so far: “It was in the shape of a cruciform.” Duh. In English we would say, “It was cruciform in shape” or possibly “It was in the shape of a cross.”
I also like the part where a guy can reach over from the passenger seat way out of a car window on the other side and only notice that he is “close” to the woman in the drivers’ seat. Not, you know, smushing her so she can’t breathe, just close.
It’s book in need of an author and an editor, successful only because it bashed the Church.
Does anyone know if you can get the good life of Saint Theresa of Avila which used to show on EWTN on DVD?
I’ve looked and looked for it but have not had any luck so far.
Oy vey. I’ve had it now.
Where, exactly, is it written in the Hollywood Guidebook to Filmaking, that all strong women must, by definition, be a proto-feminist in conflict with the wicked oppressive powers that be??
Thanks for taking women so seriously that every strong woman’s story MUST adhere to that stereotype…
I won’t even touch the cr** about the Church offering the virgin-mother or reformed-whore stereotypes as the only two possible role models for women. Grrrr….
Such shallowness. Hope this project dies in formation.
From watching the Spanish mini-series on St. Teresa of Avila, I got the impression that she was “modern” enough a woman for someone living during her time — her assertiveness and her determination to found convents from scratch.
Apparently, modern feminists don’t find the daring Teresa of Avila appealing enough.
The problem is that these fools (including Almod�var) AREN’T feminist. They use women as objects. In this case, they want to use a saint as a sex object to earn some money. Grrr! And prayer, too.
Am I reading this right? It seems, from the article’s description of this “allegedly” blasphemous film, St. Teresa is a heterosexual. So at least we’re going to be spared the “lesbian who ordained herself as a priest” version of this saint.
Thank goodness for small mercies.
Does anyone know if you can get the good life of Saint Theresa of Avila which used to show on EWTN on DVD?
A couple of weeks ago, after being referred to the Daughters of St. Paul in Florida, someone there referred me to their sisters in Puerto Rico from whom the Florida group had obtained the series. But apparently they do not have the rights to offer the series yet and are trying to obtain them. EWTN too is trying since they have had so many inquiries. We’ll just hope the Spanish TV series comes through.
The Daughters had the rights to the VHS version. I saw a set of them. They were released about 15 years ago and are out of circulation now.
Why wouldn’t they also have rights for the DVD version?
The DVD version does exist — but it’s in Spain and not in NTSC format (the one viewable in this country). It’s in PAL. I believe that’s how EWTN was able to start showing it again.
At a Spanish website: http://tiendacine.terra.es/teresa_de_jesus_4_dvd~pelicula~12709.html
For the past couple of years EWTN has been running this mini-series for two weeks in the month of October close to her feast day. If you’re interested, keep an eye out for it.
The schedule is up. It’s on again this year.
Scroll down to TERESA DE JESUS (60:00) to see show times.
It starts on Oct. 2, runs on weekdays at 3 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern time through the 11th.
Sorry, don’t know how to make these hyperlinks.
That’s what you get when you look at Bernini’s glorious sculpture of St. Teresa in Ecstacy with a green mind.
Because for anyone who doesn’t truly know God ecstacy can only be carnal and not spiritual.
Chris from St. Mary’s:
“The DVD version does exist — but it’s in Spain and not in NTSC format (the one viewable in this country). It’s in PAL. I believe that’s how EWTN was able to start showing it again.”
It may be viewable on your computer (depending on the hardware/software you’ve got– I can play European DVDs on my Mac Mini), and some DVD players (especially the cheaper models like the ones from Go-Video) can easily be reprogrammed to play PAL DVDs on American TV sets… I guess it’s easier for a manufacturer to create a generic player that can be reprogrammed than to make different models for different parts of the world.
BTW, I saw part of “The Messenger” on TV the other night; I liked a lot of it, except for a few things: although Joan of Arc was sympathetic and likeable, she also seemed a bit deranged; the director had an annoying habit of cutting to extreme closeups of the characters looking out at us; and I’m sorry to say that during one of Joan’s visions Jesus looked to me like Marty Feldman. Anyway, I wasn’t able to see the whole thing– mostly the big battle scenes, which I thought were well done. But I’ll have to reserve judgment about the film as a whole until I SEE it as a whole.
Speaking of films about saints, wasn’t there a film about St. Joseph of Cupertino? I’d like to pick that one up on video, because he’s one of my favorites…