I have a personal tradition which I observe twice a year. A tradition that the recent death of an actress whose performance I greatly admire reminds me that I still need to observe. The actress’es name was Jennifer Jones.
This tradition I observe is a simple one. Its involves myself, a cup of Rose Hip tea and watching a certain movie.
The movie I watch is “The Song of Bernadette”
Why is this movie of interest to me? Well for several reasons.
One, being Jennifer Jones’ performance. Her performance was very understated, not full of bold broad movements that were gaining popularity at the time, but demure and simple. A performance that borders on elegance, yet spoke volumes about the character she was portraying with its simplicity. The soft-spoken delivery of her lines, the small short movements she made on-screen all added to her portrayal of the simple peasant girl who first saw the Virgin Mary in a grotto in Lourdes. (and this performance brought her an Oscar as well!)
The second being “Faith.” I am not Christian but I admire people of simple faith greatly.
I must make a clarification though. There is are big differences between “Faith”, “Religion” and “Spirituality”. In my opinion “Faith” is a belief in things of a spiritual nature that are felt but not seen (or as one of my favorite films states “Faith is believing in things that common sense tells you not to”); “Religion” is an organized belief system based on ideology and dogma; “Spirituality” is a sense of a higher power that guides us and that we can tap into for guidance. “Spirituality” can lead one towards “Faith” (or vice versa), Either of these CAN (if you choose it) lead you to “Religion”
Thirdly, is the story behind the creation of The Song of Bernadette.
The book that forms the basis of this movie was written by author Franz Werfel, who was married to Alma Mahler (but more about that later).
Werfel was a Jew that escaped from Nazi occupied France with the help of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee. While Werfel was “hiding out” in France he and his wife visited the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, where Werfel found a sense of spiritual solace experiencing much help and kindness from the citizens of Lourdes and the Catholic orders that staffed the shrine. He promised that he would write about his experiences in Lourdes.
Werfel kept this promise upon the 1942 publication of the historical novel, The Song of Bernadette.
The book told the story of Bernadette Soubirous who had seen the visions of the Virgin Mary. The book also placed the events in a historical context of the times they occurred. While embellishing much, Werfel also included many facts that he learned by interviewing many of the older villagers who knew Soubirous during her lifetime, and by researching church documents and other written works. However as Hollywood is known to do, Hollywood’s adaptation included creating a romance between real-life characters that most likely did not occur in Soubirous’ life, making some characters more villainous, and dramatizing events that never occurred (her deathbed scene).
However as a fan of this film I urge you to take a couple hours and watch it. … Which reminds me I myself have a tradition to observe soon!
[Historical Note] Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee helped Werfel and many thousands of other artists and intellectuals escape the Nazi’s regime. If Fry hadn’t helped Werfel and his wife survive, The Song of Bernadette would have been never written, the movie never made, and Jennifer Jones would (most likely) still be Phyllis Isley. In addition Werfel’s wife would never have been able to smuggle out the works of her first husband Gustav Mahler, and these symphonic works would most likely still be missing.
Story Links of Note (courtesy of Wikipedia):