Review #1 of MANDORLA
I learned to enjoy film critiques by completing a filmmaking master’s degree program. Here is a review of a wonderful film refreshing and peculiar for its out-of-the-mainstream flavor. A friend in my favorite international organization, L’Alliance Francaise (de Memphis), asked me to review it: MANDORLA (2016, Roberto Miller, Writer/Dir. and Liz Holdship, Producer ). “Mandorla” is a word in the dictionary. In a nutshell, it is “almond;” all kidding aside, a mandorla is “a pointed oval shape used in medieval Christian art as an aureole to surround a sacred figure (see vesica piscis);” in painting, sculpture, and other, it is an almond-shaped area of light, usually surrounding the resurrected Christ or the Virgin at the Assumption. One way of describing the film is to say it deals with the definition of vesica piscis— a pointed shape formed by the intersection of the circumference of one circle with the center of another circle with an equal radius. The two circles would be Ernesto’s ordinary reality and his imaginative reality. The phrase vesica piscis is not Italian, as is “mandorla,” but rather Latin: bladder = vesica + fish = piscis (from the resemblance in shape). To read the sample of the use of the word mandorla is to understand that the eponymous film deals with the soul’s longing for wholeness and full expression. The power comes to a person following the light, in a religious way of thinking.
Here is a dictionary sample from use in a periodical: “During a recent struggle with a misdiagnosis of terminal illness . . . she took off her vesica piscis of rayos and bade me pass through her fiery corona, burning away my terror and grief time and again.”
The film perhaps, and definitely this excerpt from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book about La Madre Grande, richly bring to mind the Blessed Mother Mary as the utmost feminine power who leaves no one stranded, bringing the “aerial viewpoint” for seeing the greater soul-picture in everything around us. Pinkola Estes believes Holy Mary to be a force of Nature inlaid with the profound creativity of sheltering, showing, and other attributes of mothering.
MANDORLA’s creative team told their story with a feminine-empowerment approach, casting a beautiful woman of long dark hair in a yellow field, a spirit in the protagonist’s imagination. A second powerful lady met him on a bridge in Lyon, France by serendipity, a stroke of perfect good luck in Ernesto’s time of need. She was a member of the everyday, ordinary reality. The stunning beauty in the sunny field was from the glowing circle of dreams, the circle intersecting the protagonist’s normal circle from time to time. Ernesto bravely struggled for change.
REVIEW #2: Guest reviewer Jim Eubanks writes about the film MANDORLA by first choosing a Fairyland concept for the out-of-the-ordinary imaginative place that Ernesto takes himself to, Ernesto being seduced there by his soul’s longing to live creatively. Does he have a choice? Visions have power. I have not thought much about “Faery,” the word for the enchanted realm of fairies, although once I directed middle-school students putting on Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream wherein we meet the mischievous sprite Puck. Because I have an inkling for gardening, I kind of like gnomes, defined as legendary creatures resembling tiny old men, living in the depths of the earth. Jim’s way of reviewing the fresh, possibly ahead of its time, and memorable film MANDORLA [2016, producer Liz Holdship, writer/director Roberto Miller] took a different turn from my approach. In fact, my perception does not follow Jim’s last line. I believe Ernesto did indeed abandon his office job for self-regulated work in an imaginative realm. Can he still pay the mortgage? He was brave to connect with fearsome shadows. He embraced dreams reaching out to him. Jim Eubanks tells much about the unusual places to which brave Ernesto allowed himself to travel on . . .
A Perilous Quest, a review of the film MANDORLA by Jim Eubanks
In the old faery lore, it was at the borders that faerie enchantment was found— the border between light and dark, life and death, land and water, evening and day, field and forest. There is a small gap there, which most people do not see, and which is a place of magic. But that magic can be deadly. An encounter with the faeries or their enchantment can lead to inspiration, or madness. It was much like our modern stories of alien abductions. Some people who have been abducted (whatever the reality of it is) describe great joy; most are left feeling desperate and with a feeling of cosmic loneliness.
Ernesto, the main character of MANDORLA finds himself at the border of his outer world of high-stakes commercial advertising and his inner world of artistic spiritual vision. There is a gap at that border, a gap between being a successful practical person and being a person who acts on his inner spiritual vision. Ernesto becomes aware of this gap, this place between two different vibrations, and is drawn into a place of perilous magic.
It is the faerie encounter; it is the Grail Quest, in modern terms. This quest can lead to madness, despair, ensorcellement (ed. under a spell), ruination— after all, only one knight found the Grail, and even then at great cost. But the knights had no other choice than to find the Grail in order to heal the king.
This well-done, entrancing film tells the story of Ernesto’s quest. This is not something someone made up— it is based on actual events, many of which are quite intense. The last scene, in which Ernesto, in medieval garb, walks across a field of golden grain to see a splendorous castle on a lake in the distance is very beautiful, and seems to me to sum up the theme of the movie: Ernesto might like the convenience of computers and jet flights to Lyon, but he still wants his world to have enchantment, romance and even magic, and he does not think that one excludes the other.