At the end of the film Ignacio de Loyola, a music so haunting, so sad and so grand fills the moviehouse. It is what I am looking for all throughout this film that is too small for the epic of a life of a man who founded an Order noted for its exquisite zeal and ardor.
Films always create expectations. They may come from the subject matter itself couched in the title and the poster images of the film or spread through the press releases that accompany cinematic ventures. In our country, by the token of the many institutions created by the Jesuits and the practices—retreat, formation seminars, media campaigns—stories about Ignacio or Saint Ignatius abound. We can marvel at our memories of those stories about the saint, again be they products of the myth created around him. By myth, we do not mean “false” stories, but the rather grand and awesome adventures attributed through the mist of years and narratives to the man.
We want those scenes onscreen. We have labored as students and believers listening to and learning from the stories. A film about the person has come. We desire no less the visuals of those memories and those lessons. Images, moving (as in motion) and moving us (as in emotion) are top of our list. We do not want long voiceovers because, for many of us, the life and works of Saint Ignatius have already been voiced over by our mentors and recollection guides.
Be that as it may, I would still recommend this film, directed by Paulo Dy, for the simple reason that some images make us think. Ignacio, if we are to belabor the point, founded an Order, which has formed schools that have taught men and women to be critical thinkers.
One scene shows Ignacio visiting once more a whorehouse. He is already recovering at this point. Inside the room, the man spends the time conversing with the woman. These scenes have been done in many cinemas, but in Ignacio, the filmmaker pulls off what could have been a ridiculous episode: Ignacio asks the woman to look at the empty chair, as he tells the woman to try if she could see Christ there. The woman looks first, grimaces a bit and, after a while, says, yes, she sees Christ there. Ignacio does not stop there. He asks the woman what is Christ telling her. The audience need not listen to what the woman will say, because then and there, cinema has leaped from the screen to the consciousness of the viewer. The actors have done their work, the man playing the role of Ignacio demonstrating a calmness, a kind of tension rolled into infinity that we do not witness in the previous scenes.
As I always say, moments do not a movie make. We need the plot to sustain itself.
The film Ignacio de Loyola suffers from the same problem that attend biopic: the tendency to make heroic tales into hagiography. In the case of many heroes, we do not want them as saints, for being human is enough. In the case of Ignacio, we know he has become a saint. We do not want that to be a given. The struggles, the frailties, the evil deeds in fact, are required, because we want to learn how he has moved from such vulgar ordinariness into heights not in the introspection but in the action. Those marvelous and magnificent men who have followed him are the best proof of his transitions.
Image credits: Jimbo Albano