The lady in the sky
Movie Title: The lady in the sky
Denise Black, Ray Fearon, Mark Anthony Brighton, Chris Jarman, Gabriel Cartade
Runtime: 142 min
Every once in a while a “faith-based” American film hits Irish cinemas. Profitable in their country of origin, they sneak in here without disturbing the secondary media. They always concern Christians. They are invariably very competent.
The Lady of Heaven is something quite different. A British independent release, directed by Eli King, it is very much concerned with the story of Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, but also touches on the wider history of the first millennium and some contemporary trauma.
It’s done with respect. It has educational value. But the filmmakers, working on a modest budget, made sure to include plenty of puzzle action. The depiction of the Battle of Uhud gives us the kind of antagonistic Goliath we’ve rarely seen since the sword-and-sandal pomp of 1950s Hollywood. Those movies were a little shorter on the blood, though.
For most of its duration, The Lady of Heaven is respectful to the point of guilt. We begin in the present day as a young Iraqi boy is orphaned by apparent Isis militants. A soldier picks up the boy and brings him back to his kind grandmother. Reminiscent of the framing device of The Princess Bride, the film has the old lady entertain the child with stories from ancient Fatima. We return to seventh-century Medina and watch the new faith unfold.
Respecting the ban on portraying holy figures in Islam, the producers employ a mixture of ingenious lighting and computer-generated imagery to give an impression of these figures. “It was a very difficult thing, in fact, something that we were very aware of from the beginning, how to solve this problem, because these sacred figures are very holy for almost two billion people, Muslims all over the world”, Abdul-Malik Shlibak said. , one of the producers, told Deadline at Cannes last year. This is a rare biopic in which the subject is never properly seen.
In truth, it would take a great deal of expert knowledge to offer a valid assessment of historical or theological accuracy. The film is unlikely to generate much interest from those who are not already engaged with the subject. It is rough around the edges everywhere. But it is a sincere effort made with admirable enthusiasm.
Released April 29