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Vision - From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen

4.4 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Lushly shot in original medieval cloisters of the fairytale-like German countryside, Vision is the profoundly inspirational portrait of Hildegard von Bingen, a woman who has emerged from the shadows of history as a forward-thinking and iconoclastic pioneer of faith, change and enlightenment. A visionary in every sense of the word, this famed 12th-century Benedictine nun was a Christian mystic, composer, philosopher, playwright, poet, naturalist, scientist, physician, herbalist and ecological activist. Reuniting with recurrent star Barbara Sukowa, New German Cinema auteur Margarethe von Trotta brings the story of this extraordinary figure to cinematic life. In a staggering performance, Sukowa portrays Hildegard's fierce determination to expand the responsibilities of nuns within the order, even as she fends off outrage from some in the Church over the visions she claims to receive from God. She was truly a woman ahead of her time.

- Beautiful high-definition transfer, enhanced for widescreen televisions
- Telluride Film Festival Tribute and Q&A with director Margarethe von Trotta by actress Barbara Sukowa and professor Annette Insdorf
- Writer Gary Giddins' Telluride interview with von Trotta
- A conversation at the Goethe-Institut New York, with von Trotta and writer Robert Boyers, editor of humanities journal Salmagundi
- Original U.S. theatrical trailer
- Booklet with Hildegard historical timeline and interviews with von Trotta and Sukowa


The German Benedictine nun Saint Hildegard von Bingen, whose visions in history have sometimes been dismissed as delusions or migraines, is in this biopic portrayed as the revolutionary healer and artist that she was, in efforts to further amend her contemporary public image. In Vision, director Margarethe von Trotta traces with some historical accuracy Bingen's astonishing life as not only a nun who was commanded to record her visions by God, but a medicine woman, an independent spirit, an intellectual, and a skilled artist and musician. This gorgeous depiction of her life, in addition to Barbara Sukowa's imaginative and respectful invention of Hildegard's character, offers the viewer a palpably realistic version of what the 11th century might have been like. While the first scenes in the film are set in the Cloister Disibodenberg, where as a preteen Hildegard was tithed to the church by her parents, the latter half of the film is set in the nunnery Hildegard designed and constructed, Cloister Rupertsberg. One of the great assets of this film is that it does not attempt to depict Hildegard's entire life, but instead focuses on a few main movements. Vision chronicles her childhood's ecclesiastical training, the passing of her spiritual mother Jutta (Lena Stolze) and Hildegard's election to Magistra thereafter, then Bingen's spiritual and intellectual growth through approximately age 60. Because one sees how young girls were separate from society in sanctuary, one can easily begin to understand how lucid Hildegard is regarding her visions that her provost Brother Volmar (Heino Ferch) eventually transcribes. Her visions in this film are tastefully handled, and the bulk of the narrative concerns instead Hildegard's studies, her ingenious, modern interest in both science and religion, and the ways in which she navigated a patriarchal church system on behalf of the nuns under her care. For example, the young, regal Richardis von Stade (Hannah Herzprung) is vowed in and for many years devotes herself to Hildegard, but not without jealousy from Hildegard's other close ally, Sister Jutta von Sponheim (Mareile Blendl). Small personal dramas unfold within the larger framework, making this a very complex and engaging film. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Barbara Sukowa
  • Directors: Margarethe von Trotta
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: April 19, 2011
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,655 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I had the honor of previewing the extraordinary German-language film "Vision", the story of the great Benedictine nun Hildegard von Bingen. Not since the magnificent 1980's Spanish mini-series "Teresa de Jesus" has a film so accurately yet poignantly portrayed a famous woman saint. Newly released on DVD, the Zeitgeist production, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, stars Barbara Sukowa as the enigmatic twelfth century German abbess. One of the most extraordinary figures of the Middle Ages, Hildegard was not only a mystic but an author, a musician, a foundress and a director of souls, learned in the natural sciences as well as in theology and philosophy. She wrote some of the first mystery plays, laying the groundwork for modern drama. Madame Sukowa is able to convey the inner stillness of the contemplative spirit of Hildegard along with her strength and common sense. All the while, the very human side of the saint is always present as she struggles with those who oppose her, as well as with the devil, and with herself.

Resisting the temptation to make the film into a piece of feminist propaganda, "Vision" portrays Hildegard as an obedient daughter of the Church. Her obedience is by no means mere childish acquiescence, as the vow of obedience is too often misconstrued, but an expression of a vibrant faith. St. Hildegard is not afraid to take a firm but charitable stand against injustice. She will brook no infractions of the Rule which protects the serene and disciplined life of her nuns. She is a true mother ready to fight to the death for her spiritual children.

Because of the film's commitment to authenticity there are many elements of medieval life, such as the custom of everyone embracing each other on the lips, which seems odd to modern sensibilities.
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My wife and I really enjoyed this video-- as far as it went. Which, alas, was not far enough. We have studied the life and work of St. Hildegard for almost fifteen years, so were familiar with her biography. This is very nicely presented here: the scenery is beautiful; the music (though not enough of it) was lovely; the acting is excellent. There is much to recommend this film, certainly. But it draws to a close much too quickly: We are barely introduced to the emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, when Hildegard is off on her preaching tour across Europe. We hear nothing more of her relationship with the emperor, or of the pope whom she [persuaded to return to Rome. There are no references to the illustrations of her visions, magnificent in their own right. Indeed, her works (including Scivias) are touched upon quite briefly, some of them (like her work in medicine and the natural sciences) barely at all. Indeed, the entire last twenty years of her life is completely missing-- details of her tours and correspondence, her moving of her convent to Eibingen, the interdict which she managed successfully to have overturned-- all not mentioned at all. Instead, the film seems to dwell too long on her relationship with her dear Richardis, an interesting topic, but hardly as pivotal as it is presented here. In the desire for "narrative" (that is, soap opera) many aspects of her fascinating history are ingored or paid short shrift. We were very disappointed when the ending came so suddenly, with Hildegard rising from her sick bed, hitting the road, and literally riding off into the sunset-- a full twenty years too early! There is a great need for a sequel to finish off the story of the remaining 20 years of this fascinating woman's life.
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For my tastes, this was one of the top films of 2010 - a gorgeous biopic of a strongly willed nun of the Middle Ages who reinvented the meaning of spirituality for her time. Barbara Sukowa gives a subtle, nuanced performance of this philosopher, mystic, herbalist, musician, playwright who insisted on creating a special cloister of female nuns against the wishes of the male religious hierarchy. There were those after her, of course...one thinks of St. Theresa of Avila...but the accomplishments of Hildegard Von Bingen were certainly more varied. For example, she created an entirely new kind of musical religious play. She experimented with the healing power of herbs.

What makes her portrayal so interesting in the movie is that she is not uni-dimensional. At various times Hildegard Von Bingen appears submissive or strong, compassionate or stern, independent and emotionally weak, hard headed and mystic. The power of the actresses performance is that Hildegard's thoughts are not necessarily the same as her actions.

I love the luscious historical background of those authentic, old European cloisters. Every moment, the film kept me breathless. This is a thinking persons' movie about the wonders of true religious spirituality.
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This movie is beautifully filmed and interesting, but offers a cold and superficial interpretation of Hildegard, tainted by secular historical revisionism. It is the sort of movie that attempts to depict a Christian mystic as admirable, but quite apart from the mystic's relationship with God, leaving a half-sketched caricature as protagonist. Rather than evoking the real Hildegard through her writings and spirituality, this film chooses to focus on how she got want she wanted through intelligence and cunning, inviting us to admire her political will rather than any sort of religious wisdom or example she might have offered. The content of her visions is barely touched upon, with the director inviting us to admire Hildegard as a proto-feminist who simply happened to be a nun. The problem is that Hildegard was a nun who happened to be a proto-feminist, not vice versa, and her relationship with Jesus in prayer is central to understanding her. As a result, one walks away from this film with a mild interest in medieval politics, but without any sort of deep insight into Hildegard's personality or understanding of her as a real person. She remains as remote from the viewer as the director is from God. An intriguing film for agnostics, perhaps, even though it is neither gripping nor involving. I'm glad I saw it, and it is certainly worth a rental, but I would not encourage others to actually purchase it. For a much better example of an avant garde European treatment of a Catholic saint, check out the "Therese" film that won at Cannes in 1986. It is neither preachy nor fawning, but at least gives you a sense of who Therese of Lisieux was and what she believed, whether you agree with it or not.
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