Our need to wrestle meaning from such Evil, often leads us to blame cultural, political, or religious ideologies, but this kneejerking blame-game is not only politically and spiritually unhelpful, it is misguided. Even the most clearly-stated of intentions will never fully explain such depravity; ideologies and motivations will never truly match up to the unthinkable actions conceived and carried out by misguided fanatics.
How often are we willing to compromise on smaller matters, setting aside what we know to be right and just for the sake of our own desires? Surely, we would not kill another to further our own ends, but how many of us are willing to ridicule and belittle others in the feverish building up of our own importance? Are those two groups really so far apart? How far will we go to get what we want?
Though the story is Elmer's, Sister Sharon Falconer has a vital lesson to teach. Once overlooked as an earnest, inexperienced supporting player in Gantry's dramatic story of self-discovery, she becomes the all-important "flip-side" of the story - the effect that adulation can have upon the one being followed. This devout and well-intentioned young woman begins to view herself as more than a simple human instrument. Her followers have come to rely so completely on her spiritual strength that she now sees herself as The Only Instrument by which they can be saved, and her inability to reject her new-found fame for an "ordinary" life will have tragic and lasting consequences.
In one of the season's most powerful moments, a young woman known as Fleur Morgan chastises Tate for his willingness to experiment on a baby clone recently captured from its parents. "It's a baby," she says. "I don't care if it's a baby human, a baby AC, or a baby chimp. It wasn't born for our benefit."
The notion of jealous and dissatisfied angels seeking to emancipate themselves from a desire-less world by becoming human is ludicrous. Yet there is a lesson here to be learned about the importance of desire, and about how interwoven and fundamental desire is to our human nature. If Wenders' angels wish so desperately for desire, perhaps we should not cast it off so lightly.
Yet despite the darkness of its "evening," the film never loses sight of its "sun." Grudging admiration comes gradually both for Choat (whose stubborn resolve to better himself for the sake of his family is undeniably praiseworthy) and Abner (whose eventual acceptance of his old age and deteriorating health is matched only by the painful, redeeming recognition of his own failings).
Muniz's own journey is deeply uplifting. In the film's opening moments, he expresses concern for his safety amidst the catadores. But by its conclusion, he is overwhelmed by the goodness and decency he has found among them. They are not redeemed by his art; rather, his art has been transformed by the extraordinary beauty and honesty of their lives—lives lived out cheerfully in the midst of great poverty and suffering.
When horror icon Wes Craven chose it as the inspiration for his exploitation film The Last House on the Left, he seemed to put an exclamation point to that misconception, which misses the film's central point entirely; at its core, The Virgin Spring speaks of the diametric opposite of horror and revenge: resignation.
Hulot (and Tatischeff after him) is often childish rather than childlike; his simplicity a façade that masks an unbecoming reluctance to interact with others. Recognizing the dangers of modern technology is one thing; asking how one can best overcome those dangers is something else altogether. Tati never allowed his Hulot to confront that question, but Chomet does.
Like all created things, we exist in the "Here and Now"—a tiny jetty of stability jutting out into the roiling surf of the Past and the Future. But unlike our less rational Earth-dwelling companions, we humans are uniquely capable of manipulating that vast chronological ocean, using our memories as life-saving reference points and our dreams as vital motivations for our present actions.