Antonia's Line (1995) is an edifying and enchanting feminist fairy tale. It centers around a charismatic and strong-willed Dutch woman who, shortly after World War II, returns with her daughter to the village where she was born. Winner of an Academy Award in 1996 for Best Foreign Language Film, this drama written and directed by Marleen Gorris presents a multidimensional celebration of hospitality.
In today's edgy, confrontational, and pluralistic world, this spiritual practice is needed more than ever. Hospitality begins with an openness to others especially those who are different from us. In the name of love, Antonia crosses barriers to honor outcasts in her community.
Hospitality is the merging of unlikes. There is room at Antonia's ever-expanding table for native and foreigner, eccentric and traditionalist, woman and man, straight and gay, young and old.
Hospitality honors the spiritual beauty of women as bearers of grace, erotic beings, connoisseurs of intimacy, believers in the peaceable kingdom, and sensitive souls who are in touch with the rhythms of the seasons and the cycles of birth, death, and renewal.
The questions and exercises in this guide are organized around these vibrant and vital themes.
Antonia's Line runs 102 minutes and is rated R for its scenes of nudity, sex, and violence. For our review of the film and a plot synopsis, click here.
"Hospitality," writes Benedictine sister Joan Chittister, "is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step toward dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around one heart at a time."
- Make a list of the character qualities that combine to make Antonia such a great role model as a practitioner of hospitality.
- Of the many acts of hospitality depicted in this drama, which one seems most bold and surprising to you? Why?
- What are some of the major roadblocks you face in trying to be a hospitable person? Why is this spiritual practice so important in today's world?
"Community. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins with our strength to do work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free," Starhawk has written.
- What specific elements of care, trust, and cooperation make Antonia's community so appealing?
- What has been your most satisfying experience of community? What made or makes it so memorable?
"This is intimacy," Gunilla Norris writes in Journeying in Place. "It's touch is ever new, revealing the precious moments we have to live and connect with things. No love is ever lost in the universe."
- What are some of your favorite scenes of intimacy in the film? Consider those between Antonia and Danielle, between Deedee and Loony Lips, between Antonia and Farmer Bas?
- Mad Madonna and the Protestant who lives below her never express their love for each other because of "the dogmas of their different faiths." What are some other obstacles to intimacy that you've experienced? Meditate on the phrase "No love is ever lost in the universe."
"We are here to witness creation and to abet it," writer Annie Dillard has stated. "We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are all around us and to praise the people who are here with us."
- Even though Crooked Finger expresses a pessimistic and sour view of life and humankind, Antonia and Danielle treasure his friendship and bring their children to be taught by him. What is your response to this?
- Share your reactions to the scene where little Sarah praises Deedee in a passage she wrote for her.
- What can be done in our homes, schools, and religious communities to deepen and extend the kind of nurturing that Annie Dillard lifts up and celebrates?
"We often forget the amazing recuperative powers and life affirming magic of sexual pleasure," Sallie Tisdale has observed. "Sex can help us to like ourselves and find a generosity of spirit, open ourselves to the world and simply be alive."
- Share your reactions to the priest's evolving responses to sex and to the montage of scenes of sexual intercourse.
- What are your views regarding the life affirming powers of sexual pleasure?
"A life of joy is not seeking happiness," Zen master Charlotte Joko Beck has noted, "but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are."
- Even though this drama affirms the joy that beats as the pulse of the universe, Antonia and her loved ones are exposed to rape, murder, suicide, and a series of sudden deaths. Have a member of your group copy down the narrative notes that refer to the rhythm of the seasons and the cycles of birth and death. Discuss these along with Antonia's statement to Sarah, "This is the only dance we dance."
- What do you think of the idea of joy as simply being and life as a dance?
We'll end as we began with a quotation from Sister Joan Chittister. "If death teaches us anything, it teaches us that everything will someday end. The lesson, of course, is to wear suffering well, hold beauty lightly, and fear nothing."
- In what instances does Antonia (1) wear suffering well, (2) hold beauty lightly, and (3) fear nothing?
- Talk about Antonia's death as a finely-finished death. What are her legacies?
This guide is one in a series of more than 200 Values & Visions Guides written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Text copyright 2002 by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Photos courtesy of First Look Pictures. This guide is posted as a service to visitors to www.SpiritualityandPractice.com. It may not be photocopied, reprinted, or distributed electronically without permission from Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. For permission and a list of guides in the Values & Visions series and ordering information, email your name and mailing address to: firstname.lastname@example.org.