Revelations of Divine Love: A feature film about plague, revolution, and religious ecstasy in 14th-century England, by way of 21st-century Brooklyn

Caroline Golum tells us about her recent successful crowdfunding campaign to fund a feature film about Julian of Norwich.

For the last five years I've been attempting to do the seemingly impossible: adapt Julian of Norwich's "Revelations of Divine Love" into a feature film. It's a challenging prospect, for a number of reasons - there's the technical challenge of translating the spiritual into a visual schematic, the ambitious undertaking of recreating 14th-century England on a hand-built set, and the work of proving Julian's enduring relevance. But the import of Julian's writing has kept me afloat for these many years. I can safely say that, were it not for discovering her work when I did, I likely wouldn't be here today trying to make this film. 

Allow me to set the scene: it was April 2017, shortly after the election, and I had just finished post-production on my first feature, A Feast of Man. No one wanted to screen this film, I was working a dead-end job that I didn’t like, and the world was in shambles. All I could muster was a daily prayer for an easy death. I was laying on the sofa in my apartment, fantasizing about getting hit by a bus, when my roommate and writing partner, Laurence Bond, asked if he could read me a paper he was working on. Laurence was studying for his MA in medieval history at Columbia and researching Julian of Norwich, a 14th-century mystic.

From the moment he began to describe her visionary experience, I was rapt. Julian’s writing hit me like a ton of (soft, comforting) bricks: here was a woman who worked in solitude, endured bodily sickness, survived two waves of the Black Plague, and came out on the other side with a revelatory understanding. Her version of Christianity was so contrary to the popular patriarchal and colonial iterations we’ve witnessed throughout history - she believed that love was this awesome, powerful force that could conquer all ills. Her visions were visceral, bordering on the psychedelic, and she described what she saw, felt, and understood in such vivid detail. I couldn’t believe that someone hadn’t made a film about her.

So, here we are, almost five years later - and her work has only become more timely. Julian wrote allegorically about the Black Plague and the subsequent Peasants’ Uprising in her work, using these visions as a way of understanding the violence and madness around her. This is essentially what I’m trying to do with my film: offer audiences a rich, colorful, and disguised way of understanding our own fraught moments. When I launched my crowdfunding campaign on March 1, I didn't expect to make the goal on day one - but the immediate success of my fundraising effort only further proves my point: Julian's work is still resonant, and her rich, compelling story demands to be told.

Visual Précis: "Revelations of Divine Love" from Cinema Firmament on Vimeo.


Caroline Golum is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, writer, and programmer. When she is not working for the Man, she is usually at, writing about, or working on a movie. You can follow her on Twitter at @carolineavenue

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