Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Međugorje, Herzegovina. On 24 June '81, six children - four girls and two boys - claim to have an apparition of Mary, the mother of Jesus, on a hill. A local priest is sceptical at first, but a few days later hundreds of people attend the hill with the children. This draws attention of the Yugoslav authorities, who disperse the crowd and try to suppress the event. One priest, Jozo Zovko, protects the children and even holds a speech during mass, which is later used against him on trial for alleged "revolutionary" messages against Yugoslavia. Despite his lawyer Vukovic, Zovko is convicted and serves a year and a half in prison, but the Međugorje event remains.
From today's perspective, "Gospa" is a solid, but mild film that seems like a TV-pilot, yet it attracted attention of the audience for the sheer fact that it is one of the few movies that depicted the events in Međugorje - today a pilgrimage - and one of first movies of the independent Croatia that rallied an international cast (very good Martin Sheen, Michael York and Morgan Fairchild) filmed in English, which gave it the impression of a more elevated production than it is. The events in Međugorje were never satisfactory explained, just like every apparition, and were rather too "thin" for a movie adaptation (the six children publicly just passed on vague messages - be good, pray and fast - which is far less interesting than the three Fatima secrets) and so director Jakov Sedlar focused on them only so much he thought it was enough, the first 30 minutes, then switched to the Yugoslav state security persecuting the priest Jozo who helped the children, swinging thus to another theme of state suppressing religion. The intentions of the film are good, yet it has too little inspirational moments (one of them is the cynical Yugoslav official who comments on the event: "What can I do? I cannot arrest the mother of Christ!"; the opening where Jozo and two other priests observe how the event gains momentum when hundreds of people climb up the hill to observe the six children, who always have visions at 5:30 PM) whereas its handling of the theme is too often black and white (some Yugoslav officials and especially the caricature judge are transparently demonized). As a whole, "Gospa" is a rather well meant allegory that has a nice story flow, whose events are standard, yet even.