Though exorcism gets the spotlight, the Catholic Church also investigates numerous forms of other supernatural allegations. Reporting sightings of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the past century have led to multiple inquiries, with many dismissed as hoaxes and/or buried while others actually received official recognition both at the local level and abroad. This type of religious examination is now the subject of The Apparition (L’apparition), a French film by veteran director Xavier Giannoli (Marguerite, In the Beginning).
Seasoned war reporter Jacques Mayano (Vincent Lindon) finds it difficult to adjust to life at home after losing his best friend and collaborator in the field. The Vatican reaches out to him and asks that he investigate allegations of a Marian apparition made by a teenage girl and priest in a small town. Mayano immediately throws himself into his work, arriving in the town as part of a commission tasked with scrutinizing the facts of the case. Eventually, he meets Anna (Galatéa Bellugi), the mysterious girl who saw the visions, and Father Borrodine (Patrick d’Assumçao), an overbearing priest who has taken her into his care. They and their congregation resist the inquiry, believing the interrogators only strive to discredit the story. As the truth unfolds, Jacques finds a kindred spirit in the sad, young visionary.
“…asks that he investigate allegations of a Marian apparition made by a teenage girl and priest…”
Like most films from across the pond, The Apparition features impeccable cinematography. Giannoli keeps his frames tight, evoking the paranoia and obsession of his subjects. The actors deliver stunning performances as well – Lindon, Bellugi, and d’Assumçao revealing tenderness through their characters’ pain alongside Anatole Taubmen, who perfectly portrays a sleazy profiteer seeking to usurp the congregation. A seductive score under the direction of Varda Kakon adds layers of beauty to propel the story.
Unfortunately, it all falls just short of excellence. The payoff ends up less a mystery, and more a soul-searching journey similar to a Tom Hanks or George Clooney Oscar grab, eliciting a mere shrug in the end. It also takes a tad too long to get there at nearly two and a half hours. A slow, plodding film must deliver in the end to make the audience’s journey worthwhile, and this just doesn’t get there.
Despite its shortcomings, The Apparition remains an interesting watch if you’re willing to put in the effort. The direction and performances alone are worth the price of admission and a long wait to use the bathroom. Just know it’s not quite the masterpiece it could have been.
The Apparition (2018) Directed by Xavier Giannoli. Written by Xavier Giannoli, Marcia Romano and Jacques Fieschi. Starring Vincent Lindon, Galatéa Bellugi, Patrick d’Assumçao, and Anatole Taubmen.
7 out of 10 stars