Visions of Ecstasy - The Films of Nigel Wingrove
Director - Nigel Wingrove
Cast -Louise Downie, Elisha Scott
Country of Origin U.K.
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4/5)
Nigel Wingrove's short film Visions of Ecstasy is most well known for the fact that it was the first (and possibly only) film banned in the U.K. for blasphemy. Those who have seen the film throughout the years have commented on it's shocking nature, especially if those people fall under a particular religious persuasion. Finally seeing Visions of Ecstasy for the first time I was easily able to look past the controversy, and see a film that very easily bridges the gap between the nunsploitation genre, and avant-garde cinema.
Visions of Ecstasy interprets the story of St. Teresa of Avila (played in the film by Louise Downie). St. Teresa was a 16th Century nun who claimed not only to have visions of Christ, but physical contact with the alleged son of God. She would write about these contacts during her lifetime, and it's these writings that form the basis of Visions of Ecstasy albeit on a more non-linear, and avant-garde basis.
The film much like Wingrove's other work which populates the remainder of this disc has a very sexual tone to it. During the course of this 19 minute work St. Teresa touches herself, indulges in lesbian sex with another nun, and has sex with Christ on the Cross. In most films the material would feel exploitive, however Wingrove handles the material in a most intelligent and careful manner.
Does the film feel like it warrants it's controversy? If you are a fan of the nunsploitation genre or exploitation films in general you have seen like-minded imagery before, and thus will probably not be offended. The film feels like it was made for a deliberate audience, and for that specific audience the film can be analyzed, watched, rewatched, and enjoyed for what it is. Any modern controversy should come from those with religious values that are at conflict with what is on display here, or opposed to overtly sexual material in general. As such those in the right state of mind will find much to like in Wingrove's 20 year old short film.
Redemption/Kino have presented Visions of Ecstasy in a very good 1:33:1 full frame transfer culled from the best possible film elements (this release was delayed from it's initial date because of the discovery of better elements). Visions of Ecstasy has a very film like appearance (I believe it was shot on 16mm), with solid black levels, grain structure and excellent colors. There is some damage here and there, but that should be expected on a film of this caliber of this vintage. It would be fascinating to see how this film transfers over to high definition should a Blu-ray release ever happen.
Redemption/Kino have presented Nigel Wingrove's Visions of Ecstasy with a suitable Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix. The film contains no dialogue, however the track does get the score through nice and clearly. I did not detect any issues with the audio such as pops, cracks, or hissing.
Visions of Ecstasy is a 19 minute short film, so to warrant the price of the feature Redemption/Kino have gone wild in the extras department. They have seen fit to include the films of Nigel Wingrove including his Nunsploitation film Sacred Flesh. This is an excellent homage to the Nunsploitation genre, and offers a lot of fun to fans (myself included) of that subgenre. We also get his early short films Axel and Faustine.
If the inclusion of 2 additional shorts and a feature weren't enough to make this disc an excellent package, Redemption/Kino have included more. There is a 1990 interview with Wingrove that details the controversy surrounding Visions of Ecstasy, excerpts from the documentary Hail Mary! A Brief Peek at Nunsploitation which contains a more recent interview with Wingrove. The disc is rounded off with a series of outtakes from Visions of Ecstasy, and a DVD-ROM only essay by Nigel Wingrove about his battles with the BBFC over Visions of Ecstasy.
Visions of Ecstasy is an excellent short film in it's own right. The DVD release from Kino/Redemption is so jam packed full of extra content including 2 short films, and a full Nunsploitation feature film from Visions... director Nigel Wingrove that the package becomes nearly irresistible to fans of Nunsploitation and edge cinema. The A/V looks completely solid, my only complaint is this late in the game that this release would be a Blu-ray! Regardless Visions of Ecstasy and the Short Films of Nigel Wingrove come HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!