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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
Not at all what I'd expect from a Jean-Paul Belmondo film, that's for sure!
The film is about the relationship between an atheist woman and a local priest. It seems she's come to the church not out of a desire to convert but to join in order to protect herself from the Nazi occupiers, as communist atheists would not be safe. Yet, oddly, during the classes she has with the priest, the woman slowly begins enjoying her meetings and actually gets quite a bit out of them. What happens next, see for yourself.
"Léon Morin, Priest" is a very well made but very unusual film that took me by surprise. The biggest surprise was the casting of Jean-Paul Belmondo as the title character. In so many other films, Belmondo is cast as rogue--cocky, self-absorbed and charming. This isn't a criticism, but it is odd that the same guy from "Breathless" now plays a very humble and decent priest! As I said, this is NOT what I expected. The notion of an uplifting religious drama and Jean-Paul Belmondo going together is a bit of a shock to me! The other big surprise is how slow the film is and how unexciting it was considering most of it took place during the Nazi occupation of France--yet, the film was still very interesting and compelling! This is no action film but one that is very deliberate and satisfying if you give it a chance. In fact, it's exceptionally well written and acted and I enjoyed it considerably. And, you certainly don't need to be a Catholic to enjoy this one.
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