Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hildegard in Living Color

I traveled to Boston to see the film Vision on Sunday. It's a beautiful film about the life of Hildegard von Bingen, and the acting is superb. The cinematography is fabulous! Watching it was like seeing my book come alive. Of course, I thought my story is every bit as good as the screen story!

It was interesting to see what Director von Trotta and the screenplay writer chose to emphasize in Hildegard’s life and where they departed from known facts.

The same abbot was shown throughout, though Hildegard, in fact, knew three abbots, at least. I suppose this was for continuity, and I can understand this.

I have never read anything in the sources about a pregnant novice, though I'm sure it could have happened, especially in a double monastery like Disibodenberg. The device provided a believable motive for Hildegard to move the cloister, although sources say it was because a vision told her to move.

I was surprised at Richardis's reaction to Hildegard imploring her not to leave the cloister. Richardis’s jealousy of Hildegard's fame and power seemed to come close on the heels of her devotion with no time to develop. It seemed more likely that she was trying to please her mother, but even that didn't play right when she had shown herself to be headstrong in wanting her own way and so desirous of being near Hildegard. My choice was to have her grow weary of the way Hildegard tried to mold her into a leader who would one day take Hildegard's place. Either treatment is a product of imagination, so all is fair.

It was interesting to see that strict enclosure is not portrayed in this film. We begin with Hildegard being brought to a convent of sorts at a young age. Current scholarship says that she quite probably studied with Jutta at Jutta's family home from the age of eight. In 1112, Jutta and Hildegard definitely were enclosed in an anchorage and another young woman named Jutta is named, also. Since I found no further mention of this second Jutta, I left her out of my story. But I think there is a lot of drama contained in the enclosure years, even though we can't access it. The conflict introduced through the younger novice named Jutta in the film did add interest, however.

I was glad to see that nuns and monks worked side by side in the scriptorium. I had used that idea without being able to validate it. Also, it was interesting that the film has Hildegard elected by her nuns, and that is something I researched and included even though the sources didn't describe it.

Movies have to end somewhere, and books, also, but I'm happy my story continues and shows a bit about her travels and preaching and her final conflict with the archbishop. I think it shows her tremendous strength and faith in that she maintained her stand for what was right in the face of excommunication at an old age.

If Vision plays near you, go to see it! It’s having short runs, probably due to the English subtitles, so don’t delay.

Now I am energized and continuing revisions suggested by a dear colleague who has a strong interest in Hildegard and now lives in her homeland. Thank you, Barbara!

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