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In World War II, the widow Barny sees the Italian soldiers arriving in occupied Saint Bernard while walking to her job. Barny lives with her daughter and works correcting tests and feels a great attraction toward her boss Sabine. When the Germans arrive, Barny sends her half-Jewish daughter to live in a farm in the countryside and finds that Sabine's brother has been arrested and sent to a concentration camp. The atheist Barny decides to baptize her daughter to protect her and chooses priest Léon Morin to discuss with him themes related to religion and Catholicism and Léon lends books to her. Barny converts to the Catholicism and becomes closer to Léon, feeling an unrequited desire for him. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
My thoughts about this film don't seem to follow any precise structural pattern. I will just note the things that struck me and leave it at that. This movie affected me as no other story set in an occupied country ever has. It has a dreamlike pace and texture.
Barny sees young Italian soldiers appearing in her town, their hats have plumes--are they with a circus?... She forms a passionate friendship with Sabine, her boss: there will be a scene in which Sabine's breasts are pressed against Barny's neck and shoulders... later we find that Sabine's brother has been deported to a concentration camp... Barny and two other women have their children (who are half-Jewish) baptised. They figure that the church will legitimize their kids in the eyes of the enemy... Barny and Léon start to debate the meaning of faith. Léon makes it clear to her that he is not available, but her yearnings know no bounds. Reading Papini as a substitute for sex... Barny is involved with the Resistance, will hide Jews if required to, but her emotional life must take precedence over these activities.
There is much more, but I will just say that Riva and Belmondo are superb. After seeing her in Hiroshima, mon amour--in which she played well, but not memorably so--I was startled with her accomplished acting here. Belmondo is tough and moving; Léon is no Don Camillo.
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