dir. Marie Alice Wolfszahn
Set in the seventies, Mother Superior follows young nurse Sigrun (Isabella Händler) as she takes on a patient known as Baroness Heidenreich (Inge Maux) in a rural and near-derelict country manor. With the only other inhabitant being Otto (Jochen Nickel), the strange and elusive groundskeeper, Sigrun soon begins to learn that the house – as well as the Baroness’ memory – holds terrible secrets that may well be the key to Sigrun’s past.
Based on the Nazi’s possible involvement with the occult, Mother Superior is a Suspiria-esque supernatural drama about a woman’s search for her mother and the truth behind her birth as well as the Nazi’s experimentation with pregnant women. Set in a gothic haunted Manor House and paired with surreal images of sutured hearts and ghost women, the film simultaneously feels directionless and under-developed, as if the 71 minute run time wasn’t enough. The Nazi element in particular feels flimsy, as does the Norse mythology which weaves its way throughout the film.
A central message about women not allowing themselves to be governed by men is also presented problematically: the women here are commanding and their general premise of denying the patriarchy and utilising their inner magic is admirable, but it must be remembered that these women are racist, Nazi eugenicists, using their power to retain a “pure” bloodline. As such, although this perhaps reflects the problems with exclusionary feminism in modern times, it still makes for morally murky viewing.
Ultimately the strengths behind Mother Superior lie in its gothic fairytale tropes and visuals, factors which would have been strengthened if the filmmakers had leant more into the aesthetic whilst also reinforcing the ethics behind the story.
© Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana