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Teresa, el cuerpo de Cristo (2007; Dir. Ray Loriga)

by Sherry Velasco

This controversial film based on the life of Teresa is the most sexualized version to date (with the exception of the 1989 British ''Visions of Ecstasy” -a 19-minute film written and directed by Nigel Wingrove depicting St. Teresa caressing and kissing Christ with crosscut shots of her being erotically touched by a female character representing her psyche).  The transverberation scene in Loriga’s 2007 film is first suggested indirectly in a scene that portrays Teresa slightly reclined during a trance, wearing a red dress (not a nun’s habit), and with numerous long spears emanating from her body.  In a subsequent scene we see quick flashes of a handsome male angel, making this the only feature-length film to show an angel with Teresa (portrayed by Paz Vega as a beautiful young woman despite the fact that Teresa de Jesús was 44 years old when she experienced the transverberation vision).  These shots are dream-like flashes that crosscut with the nun convulsing in rapture during prayer while dramatic music provides the tension during the vivid intercut scenes.  The last scene addressing the transverberation is another verbal narration of the episode by Teresa, who is defending her experiences to a group of hostile ecclesiastics fearful of the Inquisition.  Dressed in nun’s habit, Teresa’s narration does not follow her autobiographical text but paraphrases and selects passages interrupted with comments and reaction shots of the male clergy.     

Teresa in red dress with lances
Teresa in trance with angel
Narration of transverberation to ecclesiastics

After viewing different cinematic representations of the famous transverberation scene one must wonder why no film to date has attempted to visually depict the angel thrusting the fire-tipped arrow into the saint’s heart.  As a result we are denied Teresa’s point of view directly during the vision.   While some filmmakers have incorporated the latent eroticism of the mystical rapture (frequently inspired by Bernini’s sculpture “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa”), perhaps it is the potential for violence in an image of an angel repeatedly stabbing the vulnerable nun has discouraged directors from filming the sequence from the point of view of Teresa during the vision instead of narrating it after the fact.

Teresa, el cuerpo de Cristo (2007; Dir. Ray Loriga): Scene 2

Teresa in trance with angel

from Teresa, el cuerpo de Cristo (2007)
Creator: Ray Loriga
Distributor: Artédis
Posted by Sherry Velasco
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