Watch The Nun
- 2 hr 15 min
The Nun (French: La Religieuse) is a provocative and poignant drama directed by the renowned French New Wave filmmaker Jacques Rivette. Released in 1966, the film is an adaptation of the 18th-century French novel of the same name by Denis Diderot. The story is a profound examination of religious oppression and personal freedom, themes that resonate deeply in both historical and contemporary contexts.
The movie stars Anna Karina, who was a muse of the French New Wave and particularly of director Jean-Luc Godard, bringing to life the tormented character of Suzanne Simonin with a nuanced and compelling performance. The cast also features Liselotte Pulver and Micheline Presle in significant roles, each contributing to the film's rich tapestry of characters and the depiction of convent life.
At the heart of The Nun's narrative is the compelling journey of Suzanne Simonin, a young woman who is forced into taking holy orders by her financially struggling parents. Despite her protests and claims of an authentic religious vocation, her fate is manipulated by a rigid society and her family's circumstances. The film emphasizes the contrast between Suzanne's authentic inner world and the expectations imposed upon her by the external forces of tradition and authority.
Throughout the film, we witness Suzanne's internal struggle and spiritual anguish as she comes to terms with the realities of life within the convent's walls. The institution, ideally a place of peace and devotion, is portrayed as a prison of sorts—a microcosm of the larger patriarchal and oppressive society. The film does not shy away from commenting on the harsh conditions and rigid hierarchy that characterized convent life in the 18th century.
As the story unfolds, Suzanne encounters different mother superiors, each representing a distinct approach to religious life and authority. These encounters further complicate Suzanne's emotional and spiritual journey, as they range from kindness and compassion to cruelty and abuse. The interactions between Suzanne and these figures not only provide compelling drama but also serve to critique the institutional power dynamics of the period.
Anna Karina's portrayal of Suzanne is both delicate and powerful. She captures the character's vulnerability and strength, making the audience empathize with her plight and her search for agency within a system that seeks to deny it. Karina's performance was widely acclaimed at the time and remains a touchstone of her career.
Liselotte Pulver and Micheline Presle deliver strong performances as well, bringing layers to their characters that enrich the film's exploration of themes like faith, dogma, and humanity. Their characters are intricately woven into the narrative, acting as both adversaries and, in their own ways, mentors to Suzanne, shaping her understanding of herself and her place within the cloistered world.
The Nun is noted for its stark and unembellished visual style, with Rivette making use of static shots and a monochrome color palette to evoke the simplicity and confinement of convent life. Cinematography plays a key role in the film, with the camera often lingering on characters and settings in a contemplative manner, reminiscent of the era's art films. The visual austerity of the film reflects the emotional barrenness and the raw desperation of Suzanne's situation.
Considered controversial upon release, The Nun was initially banned in France due to its critical depiction of the Church and the convent system. The film's critique of religion and its institutions sparked debate, as it was felt to be an attack on Church authority and potentially hurtful to the faithful. Despite, or perhaps because of this controversy, it has since been recognized as a pivotal work in the history of French cinema and as a compelling narrative about individual resistance against oppressive structures.
Beyond the religious critique, The Nun also serves as a broader allegory of individualism vs. authoritarianism. Suzanne's story can be seen as a metaphor for any struggle against systemic oppression, making the film resonate beyond its historical setting and into the realms of feminism, the human rights movement, and personal liberation.
The Nun remains an important film for its artistic significance in the French New Wave movement and for its thought-provoking content. Rivette's direction, combined with Karina's monumental performance and a powerful supporting cast, creates a cinematic experience that is both deeply moving and intellectually engaging. It is a film that challenges its audience to think critically about the role of institutions in shaping individual destiny and that invites contemplation on the nature of freedom, spirituality, and human dignity.
The Nun is a 1966 drama with a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.5.