Warner Bros’ The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima may be better known, but Daniel Costelle’s 1992 Portuguese production Apparitions at Fatima is a more historically accurate and spiritually sensitive account of the visionary experiences of three young Portuguese children in 1917, culminating in the miracle of the sun witnessed by thousands.
Praised by Pope John Paul II and Sr. Lucía herself — both of whom appear in postscript footage from a premiere of the film greeting the three young actors who play the visionaries in the film — Apparitions at Fatima is free of the sentiment and stereotyping of the Hollywood version (which Sr. Lucía reportedly disliked) — not to mention the softening and homogenization of the story’s spirituality for mainstream audiences.
Apparitions at Fatima deals with the more challenging aspects of the Fatima story, including the vision of hell that so terrified little Jacinta (Cécile Maupeu), and the harsh penances the children took on themselves in reparation of the sins of the world, including refraining from drinking water on hot days and wearing ropes around their waists tied so tightly that Mary herself had to tell the children that, while God was pleased with their willingness to suffer, they should not wear the ropes to bed.
Production values are modest, with very simple special effects for the visions, and the voiceover narration and score are sometimes intrusive. As a Portuguese production, though, Apparitions at Fatima looks and feels far more authentic than its Hollywood counterpart. The mostly amateur cast is excellent, and the locations, including the Cova da Iria itself where the apparitions occured, are a great asset.
I have never seen a bad movie about Fátima. Three stand out to me: The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952) is the best known; Apparitions at Fátima (1992) is the most authentic; and The 13th Day (2009) is the most artful — and my favorite of the three.
The 13th Day is the best movie ever made about Fátima — the most beautiful and effective, as well as one of the most historically accurate.
Old-fashioned, reverent, basically faithful to the facts, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima never quite emerges from the shadow of the earlier, superior The Song of Bernadette, but it ups the ante with sterner opposition (militant Marxists rather than freethinking civil authorities) and a more dramatic climax.
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