The 1952 film “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”, by John Brahm, is of some special interest to me right now, with my own fiction project. The film, in “Warnercolor”, predates the religious spectacles that would start a year later with “The Robe”, when Cinemascope would introduced; this film is in the old 4:3 aspect. And it looks a little hokey by modern standards.
The film opens in 1910 with the revolution and establishment of the First Portuguese Republic, which was definitely authoritarian, with mixtures of fascism and communism. Most notably, it as anti-Church.
Fast forward to 1917 when the Catholic churches have been begrudgingly allowed to reopen. Three grade-school-age shepherd children one day in May encounter, in a dry thunderstorm, an apparition hat seems to be the Virgin Mary or some related angel. The angel warns them to say their rosaries and to be careful but to return regularly. Media accounts often maintain that she was the Virgin Mary.
The family and local priests try to get the kids to remain quiet, but word gets around and soon pilgrims start to arrive to the hill to see the angel again, especially in October. The kids are arrested and jailed and terrorized, and told they will be responsible for the deaths of their families (a common tactic of totalitarianism). But Hugo (a very hairy-chested Gilbert Roland) gets them out of jail, and the authorities cannot stop the pilgrimage, which assembles in another storm in October 1917. The angel appears and warns everyone that a second great war may happen even though the current World War will end soon.
The Sun comes through the cloud as if it were going to burn up the landscape and then recedes. This conclusion reminds me of the end of a short film “Anton Bruckner’s Ultimate Finale” (Dec. 3, 2016) where an angel or extraterrestrial appears over Vienna with blazing light, burning off a young man’s chest hair in the very last shot.
The style of writing in the script, however, emphasizes simple, almost naïve Christian faith and loyalty to the authority of the Church, with no respect for independent thinking — this stands in contrast to the stark warning of the film.
The film has an epilogue in 1951, showing the modern day church and grounds at Fatima, which I visited myself in April 2001. The grounds are massive, and various pilgrim groups appear. There are unusual candles in large quantities.
The music score by Max Steiner is impressive, with choral passages that remind me of Vaughn Williams.
There are various Catholic churches around the world for which claims of miracles around Virgin Mary statues are made. Two of these are in Aliquippa and Ambridge PA, north of Pittsburgh; I visited the Aliquippa church briefly in 1989. Another may be in Harlingen, Texas (near Brownsville), which I think I visited with the help of Southwest Airlines “peanuts fares” when I was living in Dallas, in 1980. The Church generally does not verify these claims or continue to publish them.
Catholic churches and schools, to a Protestant, seem to have their own world. I can tell that from visits to an “Our Lady of Good Counsel” school in northern Virginia for “Chess for Charity” Sunday afternoon events in the past couple of years.
Fatima church and grounds today (wiki).
|Name:||“The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”|
|Director, writer:||John Brahm|
|Format:||4:3 WarnerColor (an old proprietary process)|
|When and how viewed:||Netflix DVD, 2017/12/29|
|Rating:||NA (probably PG-13)|
|Link:||Washington Post 2007 article on the Miracle|
(Posted: Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 at 10 AM EST)