Thanks to the recommendation of Tobias Haller, I put "Vision", the German film based on the life of Hildegard von Bingen, in my Netflix queue and watched it last week. The film, written and directed by Margarethe von Trotta, opens with gory scenes of flagellation, and I debated whether to speed the scenes forward or stop watching altogether, but I did neither, thus the movie and I got off to an inauspicious start. However did Christians come to think the sick practice of self-flagellation served any good purpose? The reminder of one instance amongst many of how often the followers of Christ went off track throughout the history of the church helped me to put today's conflicts and wanderings off the path in perspective.
Hildegard was an extraordinarily gifted woman, who was well-educated from her childhood in 12th century Germany, when few women were fortunate enough to receive that sort of attention. She was a "writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath." Hildegard faced opposition nearly every step of the way from the male-dominated church in her efforts to fulfill the visions and messages she received from God, but she usually had her way in the end, often aided by the patronage of the powerful. The church has come a long way, baby, but is not yet where it ought to be in terms of equality for women, as witness the struggle in the Church of England over women bishops and the roadblock in the Roman Catholic Church to ordination of women. And that's not to mention the fundamentalist Christian churches which, to this day, teach submission of women to men.
Barbara Sukowa is formidable, indeed, as Hildegard. She would have intimidated me. All of the actors performed well. The scenes in the monastery were well done, and seemed authentic to me, although I'm hardly an expert on life in a 12th century religious community. The triangular relationship between Hildegard, Jutta (Lena Stolz), Hildegard's best friend from childhood, and the young sister Richardis (Hannah Herzsprung) hints at something beyond best friends and/or mother/daughter, but we are left to draw our own conclusions. Except for the gory parts, I enjoyed the film and the lovely music in the sound track, which included Hildegard's compositions.