In the introduction to his film, Joerg Burger first presents the site of action. It is Trapani, Sicily, and its inhabitants are preparing for the Good Friday procession that has taken place annually for 400 years. They get a shave and restore wooden statues or embroider their precious garments. These will later form the groups of figures for the twenty altars that depict the Passion of Christ. There is brisk activity in the church, everyone is cleaning; the men are practicing the course of events and carrying of the immense, heavy altar images on their shoulders. In the breaks, they eat and drink, the church space is a simple workshop and practice stage for the great spectacle. On the evening before, they drink wine and play billiards and cards; men enjoying one another’s company—as they usually do.
Finally, the time has come: little girls are dressed in white angel’s costumes, young women march past as Christ’s brides. The first Associazione shoulder their altar and come from the church, the brass band strikes up the funeral march. Others follow, and only now is the altars’ magnificence visible: the six-foot, strongly expressive statues with their glittering details and beautiful decoration of flowers. But also the groups of men are a feast for the eyes in their black suits or traditional dress. One cannot get enough of watching the bearers, arms entwined, rocking their deeply symbolic burden through the city in a steady rhythm. The faces, the large watches on their wrists, fashionable sunglasses, and toothless jaws stir associations with Mafia Padroni and those they exploit; with a Sicilian men’s society proudly presenting itself. Evening falls, and then night, fluttering candles illuminate the show, the suits are meanwhile soiled with wax, but the men continue on. The onlookers are also not tired: the music is suggestive, the theatrical event captivating, and sympathy is with the bearers, the favored group. The magic of this ritual seems to be enduring the suffering together, in opulence through to excess. When they finally return to the church, infinitely slow, after staying awake all night and repeated processions, the audience is already waiting for the players. Now the tears can flow, it is finished.
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