Catholic Movie Corner: Review of The 13th Day

In The 13th Day, a timely message of Fatima has been retold for a new generation. Directors Ian and Dominic Higgins, accomplished more than a pious revival of a fond moment in Catholic history, they re-cast familiar images of a story whose relevance has grown with time. Told from the perspective of Sister Lucia dos Santos who is writing her memoirs in her Spanish convent in 1932, the film emphasizes the emotional turmoil, which ensued when she had a heavenly visitor in 1917, and the personal cost of being Our Lady’s messenger. The term 13th Day refers to the series of six apparitions of Our Lady, beginning on May 13, 1917, on the thirteenth day of each month, ending on October 13, 1917 with the miracle of the sun visible to over 80,000 people, according to newspaper articles. The Higgins brothers’ background in photography, as evidenced by their use of the Chiaroscuro technique, in which faces emerge from darkness into light, emphasizes the theme of light that is central to The 13th Day. Character’s faces emerge from shadowed darkness, to black and white, to muted color and as they respond to the heavenly messenger portrayed in blinding light. This technique may not appeal to those who prefer a traditional portrayal of this story, yet it has a haunting quality achieving an arresting emotional impact. Interestingly, not only are Our Lady and the children flooded with light and color, but those who come to accept the apparitions also take on a tinge of color. Clearly, this technique evokes the phenomenon of rainbow light that washed over the eyewitnesses in Fatima on the 13th of August 1917