×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Virgin Tales

There's something indescribably creepy about watching teenage girls at father-daughter purity balls pledge to marry men just like Daddy, which is why Mirjam von Arx's scrupulously respectful stance in "Virgin Tales" is the wisest position she could take.

With:
With: Randy Wilson, Lisa Wilson, Lauren Wilson Black, Colten Wilson, Khrystian Wilson Lewis, Jordyn Wilson, Logan Wilson, Kameryn Wilson, Kaalyn Wilson, Brett Black, Anna Wilson, Chad Lewis. (English dialogue)

There’s something indescribably creepy about watching teenage girls at father-daughter purity balls pledge to marry men just like Daddy, which is why Mirjam von Arx’s scrupulously respectful stance in “Virgin Tales” is the wisest position she could take. Focusing exclusively on Randy Wilson, the founder of the balls, and his family, von Arx trusted her subjects enough to realize no other commentary was needed, resulting in a disturbing docu that underscores the polarized nature of today’s culture wars. Also available in a truncated 57-minute TV version, “Tales” can be spun out to targeted indie playhouses following well-received fest appearances.

Purity balls were also addressed in docu “Daddy I Do,” but von Arx sticks to the source, knowing outside pundits couldn’t say anything that’s not already apparent from the two years she spent following the Wilsons. The ceremony-obsessed family clearly knows the helmer isn’t of the same mindset, but their unfailingly upbeat presentation and absolute conviction in God’s love mean that not an ounce of uncertainty can breach their sunny sense of security.

From inside and out, the Wilsons’ home in Colorado Springs is preternaturally perfect. Dad Randy is field director for the Family Research Council, worshiped by his adoring wife Lisa and their five daughters and two sons. The kids are home-schooled, cocooned in a world where Charles Darwin is probably a bothersome footnote, and Betty Friedan, as well as the late Helen Gurley Brown, nonentities. The immaculately groomed girls, now ranging in age from 9 to 27, have been raised with one thought in mind: marriage. Wifedom is their vocation and purity their code; not even a kiss will be exchanged before they get to the altar.

Back in 1998, Wilson began the first of the father-daughter purity balls, where fathers in formal attire admire their daughters in virginal gowns dancing before a wooden cross, and then sign pledges to be role-models of spotlessness. The concept took off, and similar balls are held in 48 states and abroad, with the Wilsons stumping for virginity at conservative conventions. The two eldest daughters are married to men of similar convictions, while Jordyn, 23, anxiously waits for God to put the right man in her path (though not stated in the docu, auds will be relieved to know she tied the knot in April).

At von Arx’s suggestion, Jordyn began a video diary, explaining her outlook and imagining her future soulmate. Already feeling like an old maid, she passes the time until Mr. Right turns up by offering classes in the finer points of ladylike behavior. Though the ball is pitched as a return to a more gracious time, this and everything else about the Wilsons isn’t a throwback to the past but an ahistorical imagining of it, fittingly illustrated by son Logan’s “Manhood Ceremony,” complete with Arthurian sword. Perhaps more than anything else, what “Virgin Tales” really shows is the deep-seated fear certain evangelicals (of all creeds) have toward contemporary society.

It’s this fear that keeps them in a hermetic world, uninterested in associating with other viewpoints; they do watch movies, but fast-forward through sex scenes. Von Arx wisely avoids drawing any conclusions, but many viewers will wonder how sustainable such a bubble is for a community that, unlike the Amish, revels in the trappings of consumer society.

Visuals, from the crisp lensing to expert editing, are painstakingly neutral in outlook; any sense of parody comes from the people themselves rather than the helmer’s p.o.v. Music includes songs written and performed by the Wilson girls that celebrate “saying no for the greater yes.”

Virgin Tales

Switzerland

Production: A Praesens-Film release of an Ican Films, SRF, SRG SSR, Arte Geie production. (International sales: Films Transit Intl., Montreal.) Produced, directed by Mirjam von Arx. Written by Michele Wannaz, von Arx.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Kirsten Johnson, Claudia Raschke; editor, Sabine Krayenbuehl; music, Adrian Frutiger; sound (Dolby Digital), Christian Beusch, Judy Karp. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Appellations Suisse), Aug. 10, 2012. (Also in SilverDocs Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Randy Wilson, Lisa Wilson, Lauren Wilson Black, Colten Wilson, Khrystian Wilson Lewis, Jordyn Wilson, Logan Wilson, Kameryn Wilson, Kaalyn Wilson, Brett Black, Anna Wilson, Chad Lewis. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita' Inching Past 'Lego Movie 2' at Presidents Day Weekend Box Office

    James Cameron’s “Alita: Battle Angel” has a slight edge over “The Lego Movie 2” in a tight race for domestic box office supremacy during Presidents Day weekend. Both are aiming for about $27 million, early estimates showed on Friday. More Reviews Film Review: 'Great Bear Rainforest' London Theater Review: 'The American Clock' The two titles [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content