The Apparition: believable acting; unbelievable plot

Review: Dan Brown would have scoffed at the premise, but Vincent Lindon is impressive

Vincent Lindon in The Apparition – beats Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code anyday

Film Title: The Apparition

Director: Xavier Giannoli

Starring: Vincent Lindon, Galatea Bellugi, Patrick d’Assumcao, Anatole Taubman, Elina Lowensohn

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 137 min

Fri, Jul 20, 2018, 05:00

   

Cannes winner Vincent Lindon is one of the most gifted actors on the planet and his naturalism and charisma lends this silly potboiler rather more gravitas than it deserves.

Working from a premise that Dan Brown might have thrown in the bin, The Apparition casts Lindon as Jacques, a tough frontline journalist who is suffering from PTSD and tinnitus after getting caught in a blast in the Middle East. He’s still mourning a colleague who died in the same explosion when he is unexpectedly contacted by a French cardinal at the Vatican, who invites him to Rome for a special assignment.

After a briefing in the Vatican’s underground archives, Jacques is dispatched to investigate an 18-year-old novice named Anna (Galatea Bellugi) who claims to have seen an “apparition” of the Virgin Mary outside her village in southern France. Since then, the place has become a pilgrimage destination for thousands of gullible or desperate believers, who snap up blessed trinkets emblazoned with the girl’s image. Despite the circumstances, Jacques and Anna form an odd bond. But is she telling the truth? The nonsensical answer will make you want to pelt the screen with rotten fruit long after the closing credits.

Rich seam

Faith has proved a rich seam for Francophone cinema in recent years, with Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch and Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes leading the charge.

The Apparition is often entertaining, and sleekly crafted by Xavier Giannoli, the writer-director behind the marvellous 2015 drama Marguerite. There are billowing feathers and sunny hillside ruins. But clever pacing and Eric Gautier’s handsome photography can’t entirely compensate for the many plot-holes and coincidences. The central conceit – is Anna lying or is something spooky going on? – gets lost in a series of pointless comings and goings and barn-door broad depictions of Church greed. The coda which explains everything is as uninteresting as it is unsatisfactory.   

Still, Lindon crags his face as impressively as ever and the lengthy run-time ensures that you get plenty of movie for your buck.