Film Review: Stations of the Cross

Growing up is tough. There have been many cinematic representations of this difficult period in a young person’s life. Some of the highlights included Stand By Me, The Breakfast Club, Show Me Love, The Virgin Suicides and 400 Blows. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood turned out to be to be one of the best films of 2014. Dietrich Brüggemann’s Stations of the Cross takes a very different approach, couching the experience against the backdrop of austere traditional Catholicism.

Maria (Lea van Acken) is just weeks away from her Confirmation. At a study group in her fundamentalist Catholic church, Father Weber (Florian Stetter) urges his acolytes to make sacrifices in their lives and avoid the temptations of lurid advertising and ‘demonic’ music. Maria takes this literally and decides to sacrifice her life for her younger brother who isn’t able to talk. Despite the temptation put in her path by the friendly Christian (Moritz Knapp) and her overbearing mother (Franziska Weisz), Maria is determined to give her life to God.

Maria’s story is told in fourteen chapters, mimicking the stations of the cross in Catholicism. Dietrich Brüggemann takes a very different angle to other coming of age films. It’s an austere film, full of symbolism and quiet emotional power. There’s a staggering performance from Lea van Acken as the central character and it’s beautifully shot. Stations of the Cross is a parable about the power or religion and the extent to which it can influence the choices people make. Whilst some of the words might make sense the consequences can be devastating.

Stations of the Cross is out in cinemas now.

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