For a combination of reasons, it's easy to forget that the Catholic church's stranglehold has been as powerful in other countries as it was in Ireland.
Germany is certainly not traditionally associated with Roman rules but Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross) is a powerful modern drama about just that.
Maria (played by Lea Van Acken) is a 14-year-old preparing for her confirmation. Her family, however, are members of a sect that follow a particularly strict vision of Catholic dogma. Maria not only has to contend with religious bindings but with her domineering mother (Franziska Weisz), whose love and approval are very conditional.
Maria attracts the attention of a boy in her school (Florian Stetter) whose family belong to a version of Catholicism where Gospel and Soul music are permitted by the church choir.
Maria wants to be a normal - albeit a very sedate version of normal - teenager, but also to adhere in every way possible to the demands of her church and her mother. As an added incentive and source of confusion, Maria understands that via her sacrifices she might save her little brother who cannot speak.
Siblings Anna and Dietrich Bruggman write and direct what is an extraordinarily atmospheric piece of cinema. Dividing it into sections named after the Stations of the Cross could have been a form-over-substance kind of device. However, the titles are made to fit the scenes rather then the other way round so the story flows naturally and easily. Some of the takes are very long, a difficult thing for any actor, but, despite her youth, Van Acken is remarkable. Like the famous single shot scene between Fassbender and Liam Cunningham's priest in Hunger there is long close-up scene where Maria is in confession. The priest, unseen in confession but known to the audience as to Maria, is a handsome young man, who, in utterly reasonable and almost kindly tones insists on her baring her soul, her heart, her brain, leaving no place uncolonised and no part of Maria for Maria. Stripped of freedom but burdened by responsibility, Maria struggles to cope. It's powerful stuff, really well acted.
IFI and selected cinemas