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BY Steven D. GreydanusRegister Film Critic
Edith Stein: The Seventh Chamber (1995)
The Secret of Kells (2009)
Shaun the Sheep: Season One (2007)
New on DVD from Ignatius Press, Edith Stein: The Seventh Chamber stars Maia Morgenstern (The Passion of the Christ’s Virgin Mary) as the celebrated saint who was raised in Judaism and became an atheist before converting to Catholicism, then entered Carmel and was finally martyred at Auschwitz.
A challenging, often fascinating film, The Seventh Chamber is a gratifying tribute to a great saint, though not a definitive telling of her story. Rather than sticking to conventional drama or realistic narrative, The Seventh Chamber offers a stylized, subjective vision of Stein’s life, seen in terms of the “seven chambers” of Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. The powerful final scene depicts Auschwitz itself as the “seventh chamber,” the chamber of nuptial union with Christ.
It’s an ambitious film that needs some unpacking — which I’ve attempted to provide through an essay in a booklet that comes with the DVD. (The essay is also available at DecentFilms.com.) The booklet also includes a biographical essay by Carl Olson.
Also new on DVD, The Secret of Kells is a visually dazzling animated fantasy about the creation of the Book of Kells, the celebrated book of the Gospels that is among the finest works of medieval Irish illumination.
The story focuses on Brendan, a young orphan who lives in the abbey at Kells. Brendan’s Ireland is a half-converted world with Christianity side by side with a lingering faerie world that can be both charming and terrifying.
Although Christianity is unfortunately somewhat shortchanged in this tale, it is somewhat vindicated over paganism, above all in Brendan’s showdown with the evil Crom Cruach. Visually, the lavish design — endless knots, plaits, circles and arches — honors the illuminators’ work, while the powerful final image celebrates the famous Chi-Rho, honoring the living power of the book — a power that, like Aisling the fairy, the filmmakers recognize without fully understanding.
At last! At last! Shaun the Sheep comes to Region 1 DVD in style, with a proper release of the entire first season! Regular readers know I’m a fan of Aardman Animation’s ovine star, who spun off from the third “Wallace & Gromit” short to appear in seven-minute segments on the BBC — little shorts in the silent-comedy tradition of Chaplin and Keaton by way of the Road Runner.
Until now, though, American audiences could only get them in dribs and drabs (eight episodes here, six there). Now there’s no reason for all families not to enjoy Shaun’s delightfully silly adventures.
Content Advisory: Edith Stein: The Seventh Chamber: Some disturbing imagery; brief, non-explicit concentration camp nudity. Italian with subtitles. Teens and up. The Secret of Kells: Some frightening images; ambiguous religious themes. Might be too much for sensitive kids. Shaun the Sheep: Season One: Slapstick and some rude humor. Fine family viewing.