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Blogging from San Sebastian September 22-30, 2023

Coverage Recap of 61st edition. Photo gallery 2013 Recap of 63rd edition, video I Recap of 64th edition, video I Recap of 65th edition, video / Recap of 66th edition /Recap of 68th edition, video




Blind faith is a very strange sort of thing. On the one hand, blind faith can help a person to achieve things that never would have otherwise been possible. On the other hand, blind faith can bring a person to do things that they never would have done.

Hadewijch is a French film in the official selection at the San Sebastian Film Festival, and it is a film that explores this very idea. It follows the life of Céline, a French girl so enamored with God and her religion that she is asked to leave the convent where she has been training to be a nun for being overly zealous. Upon her return to Paris, she searches for God in other places and eds up believing she has stumbled upon Him in the most unlikely of situations.

I was raised in a Catholic school, and so I know my fair share of scripture; the entire time I was watching this film, one phrase kept repeating itself in my head. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is a line spoke by Jesus on the cross right before he dies, and while watching the fervent passion with which Céline searches for God and the grief she experiences each time she cannot find Him, all I could think of was this line.

Religious zealotry, especially with regards to certain United States Christian groups and Islamic fundamentalists has been explored often in the media in the past decade: the more we discuss it, it seems, the less we understand how one person can go from being a perfectly “normal” member of the community into a zealot. What makes this film unique is that from the outset, we accept Céline's extreme love of God. We may not understand it—in fact, we spend much of the movie asking the questions that her friend, Yassine, so graciously poses when we cannot: how can she love God and Jesus so much that she wants to withdraw from society? How can she reject her life, a life of ease and money with a French government official as a father, for a God that she cannot see and who seems to have forsaken her?

This film also explores love on another level completely unrelated to God: Céline's love of God and his supposed rejection of her mirrors the sense of loss or rejection that runs through so many “love” stories: when Céline cannot find God where she was looking for him, she panics, and it is through these eyes that she finds what she believes to be her salvation: the violent acts that earlier in the film she so adamantly rejected. It brings a new dimension to the oft-stated adage “love is blind,” for rather than being blind, love, in this case, blinds. Love distracts Céline from her morals and beliefs: all she wants is acceptance from the person who loves her, and in trying to earn this, she sinks further and further beyond anything she could have imagined.

The end leaves the viewer posing questions, but the openness of it is welcome: there are no answers to these questions—if there were, world religions would not have the societal importance that they do today. For Céline, however, the questions seem to be answered, and she seems to have found some part of herself that she had lost.


- Emily Monaco

Fifth Row, Left Side


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About SanSebastian

Barreda de Biurrun Inés

Blogging from the 71th San Sebastian Film Festival
Reporting by Inés Barreda de Biurrun, Bruno Chatelin and Juncal de la Fuente.

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