Oscar Movies: Resurrection (1980)


At the center of Daniel Petrie’s “Resurrection,” which was scripted by Lewis John Carlino, is Edna McCauley (Ellen Burstyn), a working-class woman who survives a car accident that kills her husband. Paralyzed from the waist down, she returns to her home in rural Kansas. Edna soon discovers that she possesses a mysterious healing power, thus becoming the inspirational-spiritual leader of the community. Like the 1979 Norma Rae, Resurrection stresses that Edna is an ordinary, uneducated woman who becomes extraordinary through her magical powers.

The incoherent narrative tries to fuse new, feminist ideas with older and sentimental conventions about the healing power of Love. Edna’s qualities of inner-strength and self-reliance are associated with values of small-town and country folks.

The movie exhibits a Freudian conflict between Edna and her terse, Bible-thumping father (Robert Blossom). Edna insists that it’s the power of love, not God that helps her heal the needed. Father and daughter have been alienated ever since he forced her to have an abortion, an act that had left her sterile. There’s also tension between Edna and Sam Shepard who, after benefiting from her powers fall in love with Edna but treats her with tormented reverence.

The film’s anti-fundamentalist statement (some inhabitants believe that Edna represents the force of evil, the Satan himself) was relevant in 1980, when the fundamentalist movement was rising in popularity, but the movie was a box-office flop.

The film also contrasts Edna’s humanistic healing powers with the City’s (Los Angeles) scientific establishment, which tries but can’t explain rationally her strange powers.

Production values are good, particularly score by Maurice jarred.

Oscar Nominations: 2 

Best Actress: Ellen Burstyn

Supporting Actress: Eva Le Galienne

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context 

The winners in 1980 were Best Actress Sissy Spacek for the Loretta Lynn biopic “A Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and Mary Steenburgen for the Jonathan Demme’s comedy “Melvyn and Howard.”

At 82, Eva Le Galienne, better known as a stage actress, became one of the oldest nominees for an Oscar.