Catholic Family News
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Review of The 13th Day - Fatima Film

As we approach May 13, 2016, the 99th Anniversary of the Apparitions at Fatima, I have reposted a review of "The 13th Day" from 2009 - jv
Review of The 13th Day
By John Vennari

            In the spring of this year (2009), I saw the riveting trailer for The 13th Day, and looked forward to its release with great anticipation.  I recently viewed the movie itself. The film is good, though there are some aspects I found disappointing.
The 13th Day has many fine moments. The actress who portrays Lucia’s mother is superb, and even a bit terrifying. The movie contains the best portrayal of the Miracle of the Sun I’ve seen. It is filmed in black and white, except when Our Lady brings everything to color, which is a nice touch. The overall visual theme of the film is original and appealing. Most of the acting is well executed, and the film is artistically done.
           But it is certain aspects of this attempted artistry that either slow down the film or present a distraction. Artistry in film works best when you don’t notice it, but some of the abrupt film editing, multiple close-ups and strange camera-angles made me feel as if I were watching a foreign film from the ‘60s.
            I remember hearing a commentary by the renowned actor Peter O’Toole who complained of a common problem in modern film-making: the camera-man, through his camera work, wants to do the acting; or the film-editor, through his film-editing, wants to do the acting.  O’Toole said, “we’re the actors, let
us do the acting”. O’Toole’s admonition came to mind while I was watching some of the odd camera-work in The 13th Day.
            The film opens with the words “Based on a True Story”, which signals there will be a certain amount of artistic license in chronicling the Fatima events. It is the nature of movie-making to employ this license in the production of any film on a historical subject, but I believe the film should have stuck more scrupulously to the actual facts in certain areas, especially since these facts are so readily available.
            In the first scene, we see Sister Lucia at her convent in Pontevedra in 1937, writing her memoirs in obedience to her Superiors. Sister Lucia is the voice narrating the story, though the narration is not exactly Sister Lucia’s words, but a modern re-write by the filmmakers. Thus it does not always sound like the Sister Lucia we know.
            An exact rendition of Our Lady’s words are not always given, sometimes close, sometimes not. For example,
The 13th Day has Our Lady saying, “People must turn to God, for He is already too much offended”, rather than the exact words: “People must stop offending God, for He is already too much offended.” Also, in the film, Lucia is not told until October 13 that Our Lady “will take Jacinta and Francisco soon”, whereas that Message was given on June 13.
            Though the bulk of the film is historically accurate, there are a number of minor inaccuracies, such as those already noted. I can’t help but wonder why the filmmakers did not always reproduce Our Lady’s words as She spoke them, and at the time She spoke them.
            Perhaps this is why the Fatima Shrine in Portugal, in its official endorsement of the movie, called it a “fictional film" based on the events at Fatima.
            Granted even more artistic license was employed in the 1950s Warner Brothers film
Our Lady of Fatima. But I had hoped The 13th Day, though a movie, not a documentary, would be a dead-on accurate rendition of the Fatima story brought to screen.
            The viewer might also wish that the actress playing the child Lucia spoke a bit more slowly and with better diction. Some of her dialogue whizzes by so quickly, you might find it hard to catch.
            One of the refreshing aspects of this 2009 film – at least in the preview I saw – is that it makes no comment on the controversy surrounding Pope John Paul’s Consecration of the world in 1984, and of the Vatican’s commentary on the release of the vision of the Third Secret in 2000.  The film contains other strong points, such as depicting the desolation of Lucia’s father when he learns his fields have been trampled into disuse by the throngs who come to Fatima for Our Lady’s visitations.
            The film previewed in various locations around the country on October 13. The official DVD release date is December 1, 2009.
            I am certain many people will be edified by
The 13th Day, as the story of Fatima itself cannot but move the soul. The film has a certain rustic beauty, and is bound to get more people interested in the Fatima Message. The filmmakers deserve much credit for their devotion to Fatima, and for the tremendous amount of time, funds and energy they undoubtedly poured into this work.
            Based on the trailer I saw five months ago, I was geared up to write a five-star review. But the trailer had an energy and pacing that the film does not quite deliver. I am sorry to say I found
The 13th Day to be good, but disappointing in some areas. With a little better screenplay and story construction, it could have been one of the great movie events of the decade.

Originally published in CFN November, 2009.

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