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The Divine Mercy Biopic, featuring St. Faustina

Love and Mercy: Faustina is seamless and has a sense of immediacy; it feels present and accessible, neither rushed nor lagging.

MPAA Rating: Not rated at this time of this review
USCCB Rating: Not rated at this time of this review
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 reels

Although she probably never envisioned it, Faustina Kowalska (Kamila Kaminska) is one of greatest saints of the 20th century. This simple nun became the instrument to bring the endless mercy of God to a century ravaged by countless horrors. Love and Mercy: Faustina brilliantly uses the odd genre of docudrama to bring this story to life.

Despite its title, however, St. Faustina is only part of the story. The protagonist is Jesus Himself, who uses numerous people to bring about the image and feast of Divine Mercy.

From the time Faustina was a young child, she felt a call to devote her life to God. Beginning in her teenage years, she received visions of heavenly figures and engaged in conversations with Jesus. After becoming a nun, Jesus asked her to make a specific image of his Divine Mercy. Working with a secular artist and her spiritual director Fr. Michal Sopocko (Maciej Malysa), they create a painting of Jesus exposing his heart with two rays of light, one red and one white. Despite being asked by Jesus to start a religious order devoted to His mercy, Faustina died on October 5, 1938 of tuberculosis at the age 33. It would be up to Sopocko to carry on the cause, though he too would have great difficulties.

Today, the Church universally celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy the Sunday after Easter, and Faustina was canonized in 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II, one of her greatest advocates.

Docudrama is a difficult genre to pull off successfully. It involves seamlessly splicing together both feature biographical drama with contemporary documentary interviews. What helps make Love and Mercy unique is that many events are recent enough to be remembered by the audience. I myself met John Paul II once when I was 14, and he was close friends with Fr. Sopocko. This gives the film a sense of immediacy without the distance of historical time. It feels present and accessible, neither rushed nor lagging.

The first thought that came after watching the film was how good it would be as an educational tool. From beginning to end, it is filled with compelling information without ever being labored or preachy. For example, the face of Jesus in the original Divine Mercy image perfectly matches the features and proportions of Shroud of Turin. Everything in the image has meaning from the directions of Jesus’ eyes to the void of the background to the gestures of the hands. Like the Shroud and the Tilma of Our Lady, it is both an icon of theological instruction and a miraculous witness to God’s power.

It was also wise to make the film centered on the concept of Divine Mercy rather than a straight biography. When Faustina passes away, the film is not yet even halfway finished. The story of her spiritual director and his struggles to promote the devotion are just as compelling. Throughout all these experiences, the audience can see the intense desire of God to bring His mercy to the world despite obstacles that come His way. We are blessed that God continues in every generation to bring private revelations as an assistance to our faith.

I’ve seen my lion’s share of poorly constructed and ill-conceived religiously themed movies that are passed off as acceptable only because they aren’t secular or morally offensive. Fortunately, contemporary filmmakers have got the message that just being “religious” isn’t enough; the quality must be excellent. From short one-man YouTube videos to large scale Hollywood blockbusters, we are living in a golden age of Christian cinema, and the prize isn’t Oscars or Emmys but the souls of world.


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About Nick Olszyk 143 Articles
Nick Olszyk teaches theology at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. He was raised on bad science fiction movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online at his website, Catholic Cinema Crusade.

3 Comments

  1. Eugene Kazimierowski was the artist who painted the first Image of Divine Mercy which currently hangs in the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Vilnius, Lithuania. He was a Polish Realistic painter. It was his painting the first Divine Mercy Image in 1934 for which he is best known. He was commissioned to paint this holy Image by St. Faustina’s spiritual director and confessor Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko. Mr. Kazimierowski was a student at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts. He continued his studies in Munich, Paris, and later Rome resettled to Vilnius. There he taught at the Vilnius Teacher Seminary (University of Glasgow). If I were to possess the image it would be that painted by Kazimierowski. It closely resembles the appealing image of the Shroud and a true work of art. Not at all the effete worldly like man typical of contemporary trash, I mean art. Nevertheless it’s the meaning conveyed in visual from. Why visual art and not simply the message is because Man is a visual sensual animal and sentiment is evoked conveyed by images among the best the ikon Russian Orthodox Trinity by Andrei Rublev. Other excellent examples are mosaics in Sicily prev Byzantine in depictions of the Pankrator (Cefalu perhaps the finest). Aquinas demonstrated Love in man is expressed emotively. Jesus of Nazareth expressed his love, sorrow, empathy emotively. It speaks to the mystery of the Divinity. We may know logically and in definitive theological terms the mystery yet we cannot penetrate the depth or kind of that mystery and how it interacts with Man. The mystic John of the Cross simply plunged into the mystery.

  2. Correction. Correct spelling is Pantokrator from the Gk Παντοκράτωρ as in Χριστὸς Παντοκράτωρ. Christ Creator of the Universe.

  3. An interesting note is the Cefalù Basilica Mosaic of Christ Pantokrator is dated 1131 built under a Norman regent. Christ holds the Gospel of Jn in his left hand right hand outward as if teaching. The Gospel is opened reading Latin R page Greek L page, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). Sicily was delivered from Muslim occupation by the Normans who introduced the Latin Rite in previously Byzantine Greek Sicily. Greek remained the major spoken language until Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II [although a Hohenstaufen his mother Norman daughter of Roger II was the last of the Norman de Hautville dynasty] developed the prototype of modern Italian at the Royal Court in Palermo.

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