Teresa Abandoned?: The Movie, “The Letters”

The letters in the subdued religious film, The Letters (2015), by William Rieard, are those of Mother Teresa, and they incite a discussion between Teresa’s spiritual director and a priest from the Vatican.  Coinciding with this is a dramatization of the nun’s work with the impoverished of Calcutta and her efforts to establish a new Catholic congregation, the Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa eventually believed that God was not “in” her, that He had in fact abandoned her.  Judging from what’s in this film—how accurate is it?—it is impossible to maintain that she did not know, and experience, God.  And yet . . . what is the truth?  Celeste van Exem, the spiritual director (played by Max von Sydow), suggests that the distress Teresa felt was an essential element in her ministry, but is this really true? . . . In any case, it must be admitted that van Exem’s words are an example of the movie’s unexceptional dialogue.  It is pleasant, though, to watch the acting of von Sydow and Juliet Stevenson (Teresa)—among others, for sure—but aesthetically unworthy that, as one Serena Donadoni put it, “What’s missing is [Teresa’s] own anguished voice from the letters.”

 

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