IMDb > Léon Morin, Priest (1961)

Léon Morin, Priest (1961) More at IMDbPro »Léon Morin, prêtre (original title)

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Béatrix Beck (novel)
Jean-Pierre Melville (screenplay)
View company contact information for Léon Morin, Priest on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
22 September 1961 (France) See more »
In World War II, the widow Barny sees the Italian soldiers arriving in occupied Saint Bernard while walking to her job... See more » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win See more »
User Reviews:
Help me Father, Hold me Father See more (15 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Directed by
Jean-Pierre Melville 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Béatrix Beck  novel
Jean-Pierre Melville  screenplay and dialogue

Produced by
Georges de Beauregard .... producer
Carlo Ponti .... producer
Original Music by
Martial Solal 
Cinematography by
Henri Decaë 
Film Editing by
Jacqueline Meppiel 
Nadine Trintignant 
Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte 
Production Design by
Daniel Guéret 
Makeup Department
Christine Fornelli .... makeup artist
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Jacqueline Parey .... assistant director
Volker Schlöndorff .... assistant director
Art Department
Robert Christidès .... set designer
Sound Department
Jacques Maumont .... sound mixer
Guy Villette .... sound
Camera and Electrical Department
Raymond Cauchetier .... still photographer
Jean Rabier .... camera operator
Music Department
Albert Raisner .... musician: harmonica

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Léon Morin, prêtre" - France (original title)
"A Clever Priest" - Europe (English title) (imdb display title), International (imdb display title), International (English title) (imdb display title), UK (imdb display title)
"The Sin" - Europe (English title) (imdb display title), International (imdb display title), International (English title) (imdb display title), UK (imdb display title)
"Leon Morin, Priest" - International (English title) (literal title)
"The Forgiven Sinner" - USA
See more »
Sweden:130 min | UK:115 min (2003 re-release) | Argentina:130 min (Mar del Plata Film Festival) | USA:117 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.66 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:13 | Finland:S (cut) (1962) | UK:PG (2003 re-release) | USA:Not Rated | West Germany:18

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Movie Connections:
Featured in The Son of Gascogne (1995)See more »


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22 out of 23 people found the following review useful.
Help me Father, Hold me Father, 7 September 2008
Author: MacAindrais from Canada

Jean Pierre Melville made many great films in his career - Bob La Flambeur, Le Cercle Rouge, L'armee des Ombres, Le Samourai... etc. Melville was widely revered for putting the french back into film noir. His love of American crime drama was the dramatic basis for his films, while the work of the great European auteurs, such as Bresson, formed the artistic direction. His 1961 Leon Morin, Pretre, is then something of an exception. If films like Le Cercle Rouge or Le Doulous were a combination of American and European style, Leon Morin is all European.

Set in a town occupied at first by Italians, then Germans during WWII, Barny (Emanuelle Riva) is a widowed mother and communist. One day she walks into a church looking to belittle a priest. She chooses Father Leon Morin (Belmondo), because his name sounds less bourgeois. She goes into the confessional and begins her attack. The response by the young priest however takes her by surprise. He has wise and rational responses to her every claim. The two begin conversing regularly, the priest giving her books to read about religion and faith. The young priests rationality appeals to Barny, and she eventually undergoes a conversion, not because she wants to, but because she feels she has no other choice.

While the two converse in dogmatic banter, that is not only enlightening but interesting and entertaining, life in an occupied town goes on. Barny works at the local school in the office. Her daughter of a now dead Jew is cared for by farmers outside of town, where German soldiers train in the field. The young girl is befriended by a German who cares for her and gives her gifts. A co-worker collaborates with the Germans, but yet remains a friend to Barny. Another coworker Barny claims to be in love with, although it becomes apparent that she is in love with Father Morin, even before a friend points out that he is handsome and she claims that this was the first time she's noticed. The film plays out conversationally, with the plot revolving around ideas and emotion rather than events. It's a smart and thoughtful film, not so much concerned about where its going, just how its getting there. While the film is obviously one of faith, it is not one of traditional dogma. The young priest is so forgiving, so empathetic, that he asserts that of course one does not need to be Catholic to be saved, so long as they live by the laws of the wider church - kindness, generosity, humanity. He exists for the sake of others. During the occupation he houses anyone who needs a place to sleep, without asking questions, even names.

Characteristic of Melville, he uses interesting editing techniques and cinematography. Consider the first encounter between Barny and Morin: at times the camera looks straight on, making it appear as if they're speaking face to face, then cuts to side angle shots which show the caging of the confessional to obscure the faces. The point? I'm not totally sure, but nevertheless the effect is intriguing.

Equally compelling as Melville's direction is the performance of Belmondo. Known for his crime roles, most iconically in Godard's Breathless, he gives here a totally different kind of performance. For my money, its also one of his best. He's a bit of an unexpected choice, but he's the right choice, and he inhabits this role like its an old pair of pants.

Leon Morin, Pretre, is a surprising film. Surprising in its creation by Melville, in its acting by Belmondo, in its portrayal of life in an occupied town, and in its sheer intelligence and humility. It's also a wonderful and heartfelt film.

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the 'wider church' chad_son_of_len
Criterion Collection to release a DVD/Blu-Ray in July! michaeljbachman
mesmerising ivyho-1
Melville a communist? bob998
Is the Soundtrack available somewhere? Murat-10
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