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The Nun's Story (1959)

 -  Drama  -  18 July 1959 (USA)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 5,511 users  
Reviews: 77 user | 22 critic

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, ... See full summary »

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Title: The Nun's Story (1959)

The Nun's Story (1959) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Rev. Mother Emmanuel (Belgium) (as Dame Edith Evans)
...
Mother Mathilde (Africa) (as Dame Peggy Ashcroft)
...
Dr. Van Der Mal
...
Sister Margharita (Mistress of Postulants)
...
Mother Christophe (Sanatorium)
Patricia Collinge ...
Sister William (convent teacher)
Rosalie Crutchley ...
Sister Eleanor
...
Mother Marcella (School of Medicine)
...
Mother Didyma (War-time Hospital)
Margaret Phillips ...
Sister Pauline (medical student)
...
Simone (postulant who changed her mind)
...
Stephen Murray ...
Chaplain (Father Andre)
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

nun | belgium | convent | missionary | nurse | See more »

Taglines:

The most gripping and dramatic personal story of this decade is on the screen! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 July 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Nun's Story  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$3,500,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Audrey Hepburn met the real Marie-Louise Habets - inspiration for the novel and film - while she was preparing for the role. The two actually became great friends and Habets later nursed Hepburn back to health after her near-fatal horse-riding accident on the set of The Unforgiven (1960). See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: "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.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
the art of subtlety
17 April 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Perched high atop the list of the finest American movies of the 1950's, Fred Zinnemann's "The Nun's Story" is an intensely beautiful and powerful film about a woman who undergoes a crisis of faith and, through her struggle, learns the importance of finding one's true path in life. Based on the novel by Kathryn Hulme, the film tells the story of Gabrielle van der Mal, a Belgian woman who enters the convent in the 1930's, spends a brief period working as a nurse in the Congo, then leaves the order after years of intense personal struggle with herself and with God. Among American films of its time, "The Nun's Story" stands virtually alone in its ability and willingness to dramatize a conflict taking place in the deepest recesses of a character's mind and soul.

Audrey Hepburn - sans makeup and the kind of fashion-plate wardrobe that had already become the hallmark of her movie career - delivers one of her richest performances as the strong-willed and fiercely independent Sister Luke, whose very psyche is torn asunder by the battle between her own innate, personal pride and a sincere desire to live a life of obedience to the Church and its rules. With everything but her countenance hidden beneath a nun's habit, Ms. Hepburn is forced to draw on her resources as an actress, having to convey the titanic internal conflict taking place within her character almost entirely through facial expressions, vocal intonations and body language. And she proves herself more than equal to the challenge. She is brilliantly complemented by Peter Finch, playing the cynical but humane Dr. Fortunati, a dedicated surgeon who is as concerned about Sister Luke's spiritual health as her physical health. The relationship between the two is handled with a great deal of subtlety and tact, never allowing the obvious romantic attraction between the two attractive people to come too much to the fore. Rounding out the excellent cast are Dean Jagger as Gabrielle's loving and concerned father, Peggy Ashcroft and Mildred Dunnock as two older nuns who help guide Sister Luke along the way, and the incomparable Edith Evans, simply astounding as the Reverend Mother who sees unwavering devotion to God and the Church as the one and only goal of a serious nun.

Among other things, "The Nun's Story" is that rare film dealing with religion and spirituality that doesn't contain a single hokey or sentimental moment, that knows the difference between religion and religiosity, that is respectful without being unduly reverential, and that acknowledges the complexity of the human heart in matters of devotion and faith. It also is not afraid to take its time to set the scene and tell its story, never feeling the need to rush headlong into the next dramatic moment just to keep the movie going. In a perfect blending of form and content, the film is every bit as thoughtful, subtle and contemplative as its subject matter, its mood greatly enhanced by the rich and beautiful Franz Waxman score that underlines the seriousness of the work.

In addition to all its other fine virtues, "The Nun's Story" features one of the greatest final scenes and closing shots in motion picture history, a masterpiece of precision and understatement that demonstrates the kind of taste Zinnemman always displayed as a director. The movie is made up of small, beautifully observed moments that, when put together, provide a powerful glimpse into the heart and life of a fascinating, caring individual who wants to do great things in the world but who realizes that the path she has chosen is not the one that will ultimately lead her to her rightful destiny.

On every level of film-making, this is truly one of the greats.


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Recent Posts
Question about the baths...? gay_geisha
Ever wanted to be a nun? NumberOnePhantomFan
Was the sanitarium stabbing ever in the film? sandfleas2008
scene where postulants look like brides lewis-51
Where was she going to? imdbmovie
Audrey Hepburn's Greatest Performance? csu16387
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