Director Billy Wilder salutes his idol, Ernst Lubitsch, with this comedy about a middle-aged playboy fascinated by the daughter of a private detective who has been hired to entrap him with the wife of a client.
In 1930, in Belgium, Gabrielle van der Mal is the stubborn daughter of the prominent surgeon Dr. Pascin Van Der Mal that decides to leave her the upper-class family to enter to a convent, expecting to work as nun in Congo with tropical diseases. She says good-bye to her sisters Louise and Marie; to her brother Pierre; and to her beloved father, and subjects herself to the stringent rules of the retrograde institution, including interior silent and excessive humbleness and humiliation. After a long period working in a mental institution, Gaby is finally assigned to go to Congo, where she works with the Atheist and cynical, but brilliant, Dr. Fortunati. Sister Luke proves to be very efficient nurse and assistant, and Dr. Fortunati miraculous heals her tuberculosis. Years later, she is ordered to return to Belgium and when her motherland is invaded by the Germans, she learns that her beloved father was murdered by the enemy while he was helping wounded members of the resistance. Sister ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
After acquiring the rights to Kathryn Hulme's bestselling novel, Fred Zinnemann found that no one in Hollywood had any enthusiasm towards turning it into a film, citing it as being devoid of action. All that changed when Audrey Hepburn expressed a desire to take the lead role. Suddenly, a bidding war ensued which was won by Warner Brothers and netted them not only one of the most acclaimed films of the year but also their biggest financial hit for 1959. See more »
When the patient in the Congo hospital is being attended by several people, the voice of the actor playing the patient is obviously dubbed over by actor Dean Jagger, who plays Sister Luke's father in the film. See more »
"He that shall lose his life for me shall find it. If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and come follow me." Each sister shall understand that on entering the convent, she has made the sacrifice of her life to God.
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When Audrey Hepburn, as Sister Luke returns from the Belgian Congo, she has a brief meeting with her father, whom she has not seen in years. So much time has gone by that they engage mostly in small talk. He when he finally asks her how she is "inside" (gesturing to her heart), she responds with, "Fine, how are you, Father"?. He replies, "Still very lonesome for you". That scene alone is enough to break your heart.
The Nun's Story is filled with such scenes. Fred Zinnemann directed this film so perfectly that you don't even realize that for the first 40 minutes or so, you are being instructed on how nuns learn to "act like nuns".
There are lots of famous actors in those habits, too. Beatrice Straight (Network), Barbara O'Neill (Gone with the Wind), as well as a glorious performance by Dame Edith Evans as Mother Emmanuel.
The amount of emotion that Audrey Hepburn can portray with just her eyes, a turn of her head, or a subtle facial expression is simply incredible. Without giving away any important plot element, there is one scene where she is in her cell trying to cope with a letter that she received. It is one of the most painful scenes in the entire film.
Sister Luke's struggles are balanced by scenes that are so beautiful in their simplicity, that to attempt description here would be impossible.
And the film score by Franz Waxman is one of the best things he has ever written - most of the melodic motifs are based on ancient Gregorian chant, and the orchestration is superb. When we reach a climactic scene involving Colleen Dewhurst, he switches from his Romanticized writing style to a 20th century 12-tone technique, and the shock of the dissonant music fits the action of the scene perfectly.
Sister Luke's struggle is universal. Anyone who has looked deep into their own soul for whatever reason can identify with her.
When Sister Luke is asked by her father to describe her doctor in the Congo, she smiles and says, "Exceptional". The same can be said for this beautiful film.
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