National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks & Passes 04.24.11

BY Steven D. Greydanus

Register Film Critic

April 24-May 7, 2011 Issue | Posted 4/15/11 at 2:53 PM


The King’s Speech (2010)

Rabbit Hole (2010)

Vision: From the Life of Hildegard of Bingen (2009)

The big winner at the 2011 Academy Awards comes home on Blu-ray and DVD. The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth as Prince Albert, later King George VI, and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist Lionel Logue, who helps him wrestle with a crippling stammer, is a hugely likable — and morally uplifting — royal drama.

Albert’s older brother Edward (Guy Pearce), the heir apparent, is a feckless cad whose adulterous liaisons threaten a constitutional crisis. Edward’s egocentric indiscretions are contrasted with Albert’s sense of duty — and with the status of both Albert and Lionel as loving family men, making The King’s Speech one of the most pro-marriage films in recent years.

The film’s R rating is due to a speech-therapy scene in which Lionel makes an uncomfortable Albert use obscene and crass language. There’s no casual or swaggering foul language, and, in my opinion, mature viewers need not scruple about this non-gratuitous scene. (A PG-13 cut of the film with most of the F-words muted is now in theaters.) 

Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen is German director Margarethe von Trotta’s tribute to Blessed Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard’s career as a 12th-century abbess, composer, scholar, visionary, dramatist and traveling preacher has made her a feminist icon, which is what attracted von Trotta to her. Still, Vision is sufficiently open to Hildegard’s religious world to make intriguing viewing for mature Catholics.

Hildegard’s mystical experiences are presented straightforwardly, with no attempt to explain them one way or another. Even the severe mortifications of Hildegard’s beloved mentor Jutta von Sponheim, which disturb Hildegard (and probably the filmmakers), aren’t repudiated. Notably, Hildegard rejects absolutely the suggestion of abortion when a nun becomes pregnant.

Played by Barbara Sukowa with conviction and intelligence, Hildegard is a compelling figure in a drama that isn’t always as strong as its heroine. Among nagging weaknesses is the two-dimensional depiction of Hildegard’s clerical antagonists. Still worth catching.

Finally, an ambivalent, qualified recommendation to Rabbit Hole, with movingly nuanced performances from Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in an adult drama about a couple reeling from the death of a child.

It’s sensitive and observant, though the grieving mother Becca’s hostility toward pat religious answers — really, the whole subject of God — gives the film a spiritually airless vibe. Instead of faith, Becca finds comfort in the notion of alternate universes. Bleech. Still, some emotional truth here.


CONTENT ADVISORY: The King’s Speech: References to a character’s adulterous affairs; limited profanity; recurring obscene and crass language. Fine for mature teens. Vision: Some disturbing images and mature themes, including a suicide, references to sexual liaisons between priests and nuns and references to abortion. Subtitles. Mature viewing. Rabbit Hole: Mature themes, including the death of a child, marital conflict and estrangement; sexually themed material (nothing explicit); pot smoking; repeated profanity, some crass language and an F-bomb.