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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Jerusalem
Directed by Bille August
Fox Lorber 06/98 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 - some violence, scene of sensuality

This soul-stirring and deeply profound movie about love, the search for meaning, and forgiveness was Sweden's entry for best Foreign Language Film at the 1996 Academy Awards. Based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlof, the drama is written and directed by Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, Best Intentions, Smilla's Sense of Snow).

In the late nineteenth century, a small Swedish community is torn apart when Hellgum (Sven-Bertil Taube), a charismatic preacher from America, sets up a congregation on the estate of Karin (Pernilla August), the daughter of the richest man in town who died years ago. While she and her husband Tim (Reine Brynolfsson) are convinced of his healing powers and the truth of his judgmental brand of fundamentalist Christianity, her estranged brother Ingmar (Ulf Friberg) will have nothing to do with him. Although Ingmar wants to take Gertrud (Maria Bonnevie) as his wife, she has a vision of Christ that sets her on a path different from his.

The turning point in these people's lives comes when Hellgum decides to lead his followers to Jerusalem to join a colony under the leadership of Mrs. Gordon (Olympia Dukakis), his teacher from Chicago. Convinced that the end of the world is near, most of those under Hellgum's influence decide to join him. In Jerusalem, Karin squares off against tragedy but finds the peace that has eluded her all of her life. Gertrud struggles with her faith and the challenges of forgiveness. And Ingmar, who has sold his soul in order to save the family farm, decides to make one last attempt to reconcile with the only woman he has ever loved.

This engrossing Swedish film, based on real events, is perfectly attuned to our times with its poignant observations on apocalyptic visions, the harshness of fundamentalist Christianity, and the perils of zealotry. Jerusalem is a must-see movie filled with epiphanies about religion and its startling powers of good and evil.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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