The Jerusalem Syndrome | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Jerusalem Syndrome


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According to this 1998 video documentary by Erin Sax, each year about a hundred visitors to Jerusalem are overcome by mystical or religious experiences, thinking themselves prophets or even the Messiah. Many are hospitalized as psychotic, diagnoses supported by one affected person who says the visions are both "real" and "a creation in their head[s]." Yet as Sax points out, some biblical prophets acted even more bizarrely than these people, and in this region religious beliefs do tend toward the absolute (a Christian Englishwoman, impelled to read the Bible at the Western Wall, has it ripped out of her hands by observant Jews). The dynamic camera work, with its handheld and tilted shots, gives the city's stone walls a vividness that makes divine inspiration seem plausible, but Sax is wise enough to know what she cannot know, and the precise nature of this strange syndrome remains an open question. 52 min. Presented by Chicago Filmmakers; Sax will attend the screening on Friday, March 2. Columbia College Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan, Friday, March 2, 8:00; also Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, Sunday, March 4, 8:00; 773-293-1447.

--Fred Camper

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