Michael Conti first released his movie on Hildegard of Bingen, The Unruly Mystic in 2014, around the same time we embarked on our own Hildegard-inspired creative project, Healthy Hildegard. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of watching this moving piece several times and in various settings. Our favorite viewing of The Unruly Mystic was at the Dairy Center in Boulder, Colorado, where Michael led a lively in-person question and answer session following the film.
The Unruly Mystic illuminates the life of Hildegard through Michael’s personal story of inspiration and creativity. Inspired by a unique discovery of Hildegard as a young man, Michael credits this encounter with guiding him into a life of creative pursuits. The film itself is, in part, a culmination of his personal journey, but also demonstrates the power and reach of Hildegard through storytelling, commentary and interviews with others who have been similarly touched by her work.
The movie follows the awakening and blossoming of Michael’s own creative force, which he first discovered in his early twenties while travelling through Spain. Having just finished college, Michael was in the throes of an existential crisis. His wandering led him to a place where the mystic Hildegard found him. As we are often explained, during times of need, the mystics find us. It’s up to us to say “yes.”
As the film unfolds, Michael shares his affirmation with us; he accepts his bourgeoning sense of purpose, and in doing so he also discovers love. Empowered by this love, Michael begins his journey into Hildegard’s life and body of work, unearthing an entire community devoted to her prolific contributions to art, music, theology, and medicine.
Hildegard is one of those rare historical figures that are difficult to capture with any kind of brevity. He succeeds by sharing her biography in a lighthearted way that favors the unacquainted but reminds the more familiar that her life was truly remarkable.
His own story is entwined with the individual stories of those similarly moved by Hildegard. We are introduced to some of the many unique personalities who have made Hildegard’s form of living a central theme in their own lives, each incorporating creativity, spirituality, self-care, music, and interconnectivity with nature as a part of their daily living.
His film reflects the rich tapestry of Hildegard’s work in the faces and stories of people from all walks of life as they share their own inspiration and wisdom drawn from Hildegard. We are reminded of Hildegard’s notion of interconnectivity as the common energy shared by so many different people, so long after Hildegard’s time, is lit up on screen.
The film also reminds us that the power of Hildegard’s legacy is not merely one of inspiration and creativity, but that much of her work in science and medicine was foundational. Her dedication to helping others live better lives resulted in tomes of diligent and detailed work in the integration of the natural environment in healing, medicine, and spiritual wellness. Discussions with academics and experts such as Dr. Wighard Strehlow, Linn Maxwell, Beverly Kienzle of Harvard, and Katie Shelby of Boston College illustrate the lasting legacy of her work and those who carry it forward today.
The Unruly Mystic helps remind us of our own unique nature and gifts. Through his own journey exploring himself and his creative power, Michael Conti leaves us with renewed hope for our own creative identity. For us here at Healthy Hildegard, realizing our own unique powers of creativity led us to our midlife awakenings, but creative works like The Unruly Mystic help us renew our dedication to exploring the energy that comes from living creatively.
As for Hildegard, we’re left with a better understanding of why Michael Conti coined the phrase “Patron Saint of Creativity” in describing our namesake, Hildegard of Bingen.
Hildegard continues to leave a mark beyond her ecclesiastical roots in Germany. Today, people revere Hildegard for her work as a mystic, and of course for her music and her work in medicine. Much of her modern recognition in the U.S. can be traced back to Matthew Fox and his work in developing creation spirituality. Many of these modern personalities play prominently in The Unruly Mystic.
Since our first viewing of the film, we’ve had the opportunity to meet with many more people influenced by Hildegard. Virtually all of the stories we’ve heard resemble those featured in The Unruly Mystic.
Whether it is Victoria Sweet, whose interest in Hildegard propelled her to pursue a PhD in Hildegard Medicine (in addition to her MD), and write several books on the subject, or Tim Slover, who discovered Hildegard through her music, and developed a Pulitzer prize nominated play called Virtue, Hildegard represents a persistent source of inspiration. A persistence perhaps best embodied by Jeanne Marie Spicuzza, who has spent the last 20 years promoting her award winning screenplay, Breath of God in Hollywood.
From time to time, Michael will show The Unruly Mystic at the Dairy Center in Boulder, Colorado. If you ever have the chance to attend, you won’t regret the experience. You’ll find a theatre full of people of many ages and backgrounds who are exploring – or have discovered, the power of Hildegard. There will be some discovering her for the first time. There will be many smiles, laughs, and a renewed sense of hope, admiration, and maybe even a new sense of your own potential to create and share your story.
Michael is currently working on expanding his Unruly Mystic Series to include a movie on other mystics, like John Muir and Albert Einstein. As the media’s dark take on current events seems to bombard us with reasons to find despair, it’s nice to find hope in works of art that celebrate the goodness in the likes of Hildegard of Bingen. We look forward to seeing more creations from Michael and to continue to watch his life reflect the positivity in subjects he presents.
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